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BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI
BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI

Narendra Modi promises higher support price to farmers

BJP's PM candidate says NDA govt will rework MSP formula to include production cost plus 50% profit

New Delhi: In a sop aimed at farmers, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi said on Tuesday a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will rework the formula to fix the minimum support price (MSP) for crops like rice and wheat, with a mark-up for profit besides protection for input costs.

Modi’s promise came during a day’s visit to Bihar and Jharkhand, which together comprise 54 Lok Sabha seats. The main opposition party holds 17 Lok Sabha seats in these two key battleground states.

“We will change the minimum support price. There will be a new formula—the entire cost of production and 50% profit. It will not only help farmers but this step will also not allow anyone to loot farmers," Modi said in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.

The centre currently declares the minimum price at which it will buy various crops from farmers to prevent distress sale of produce. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is the nodal agency to buy farm produce at the MSP fixed by the government.

The MSP for wheat and rice have more than doubled in the past 10 years, which some argue had stoked food inflation. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has increased MSP for wheat by 120% from 640 per quintal in 2004-05 to 1,400 for 2014-15, according to the agriculture ministry. MSP for rice has been increased 130% from 560 per quintal in 2004-05 to 1,310 in 2013-14. The 25 crops for which the government announces MSP includes bajra, sugarcane and cotton.

Ironically, the proposal made by Modi is something that was suggested in the first tenure of the UPA by M.S. Swaminathan, the agricultural scientist credited with India’s green revolution.

“The MSP formula proposed by Narendra Modi is not new. It is called the Swaminathan formula which was given by M.S. Swaminathan at the national commission for farmers during UPA-I," said Himanshu, assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The MSP policy of the government is influenced by political considerations, he said. “Although the government announces MSP for more than 20 crops, only rice and wheat are procured from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh and Bihar often complain to the centre that it announces MSP but doesn’t procure," Himanshu said. “The decentralization of procurement process hasn’t really happened."

Besides making efforts to attract farmers to increase the BJP’s vote share in the two states, Modi also reached out to voters in the age group of 18-28 years by promising jobs. Of the 814.59 million registered to vote in the 16th general election, nearly 120 million are 18-21 years old.

“This is the most important election for youth in the age group of 18-28 years. This election is about their future. If they miss this opportunity, they will miss crucial five years of their life. We don’t want a government that is run on remote control. People should vote for a strong government that can fulfill the hopes of youth," Modi said at a rally in Bhagalpur, Bihar.

Modi also attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Referring to the recently published book by Sanjaya Baru, former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and titled The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, Modi argued that while family members of Singh had accused Baru of betrayal, they had not denied the claims made in the book. “I think I may have been a bit harsh on the PM but it is in the open that the entire fault was of mother, son, daughter and son-in-law," Modi said. “They have ruined the country in the last 10 years."

Young voters will play a decisive role in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and Modi’s attempt to talk of development has appealed to this section of the electorate, political analysts said.

“Youth is development driven and not interested in caste politics. They are attracted to the idea of development given by Modi," said Kanpur-based political analyst A.K. Verma. “Farmers, too, form an important segment of electorate and that is the reason for Modi to specifically target these two segments."

Ragini Verma contributed to the story.

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