Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is drawing criticism for its incongruous stands on farm debt-waiver in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In the Uttar Pradesh elections, BJP pledged to write off crop loans taken out by small and marginal farmers.
But in Maharashtra, where the BJP has led an alliance government since October 2014, it has refused to grant farm debt-waiver despite a demand not only by opposition parties but also its ally Shiv Sena.
BJP functionaries in Maharashtra say in private that the Uttar Pradesh case cannot be compared with Maharashtra.
“In Maharashtra, we are not ethically duty-bound to fulfil a promise that our UP unit made in the UP elections. We never made the promise here," said a senior BJP minister requesting anonymity.
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But he admitted it would be politically incorrect to make that distinction on record. The minister also said that the cost of waiving off farm debt in Uttar Pradesh was less than in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has stated that more than 3.1 million farmers in the state owe an outstanding debt of Rs30,500 crore to banks. The figure is slightly lower in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP has promised a waiver to small and marginal farmers with landholdings up to 2.5 acres, who make up 92% (23.3 million according to the Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011) of all farmers in the state. A report by the State Bank of India (SBI) says waiving off crop loans in Uttar Pradesh will cost Rs27,429.70 crore.
However, Maharashtra farm activist Vijay Jawandhia, a strong supporter of loan waiver, said, “It was not the UP unit of BJP which made the promise—it was the prime minister who said the BJP would waive off farm loans if voted to power. Since he committed the BJP government to loan waiver in UP, BJP cannot take a different position in Maharashtra."
Himanshu, an associate professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences of Jawaharlal Nehru University and a Mint columnist, said it is matter of what political parties think appeals to the electorate in different states.
He accepted that waivers help in the short run by reducing the interest payment cost, but added, “The real question that needs to be answered is why the farmers fall in debt trap year after year. This is a systemic issue and needs resolution at larger level."
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Fadnavis has said that the first nationwide farm debt-waiver of Rs71,000 crore announced in 2008 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government did not help farmers as much as banks, especially—in Maharashtra—cooperative banks controlled by Congress and Nationalist Congress Politicians politicians.
Jawandhia disputes Fadnavis’s claim.
“Nearly 75% farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada got the full benefit of the blanket waiver of Rs20,000 crop loan per account in 2008. They became eligible for fresh credit which was given to them and which got restructured in 2009 and 2010 because those two were drought years. So the farmers in the crisis regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada got double benefit of debt waiver," Jawandhia argued.