GORAKHPUR : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hinted that the scope and expanse of the newly announced Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi today, or PM-Kisan scheme may be increased.

In his speech after releasing the first tranche of direct income transfer of 2,000 from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Modi said that this was just a beginning. In the first tranche on Sunday, 2021 crore was released into the bank accounts of 1.1 crore farmers across 21 states and union territories.

In a bid to win back the support of disgruntled farmers ahead of general election due in April-May, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in its final budget announced an income support scheme for small farmers. Small and marginal farmers who own less than five acres (two hectares) of land will receive three installments of 2,000 each every year, with the scheme having an eligibility cut-off date of 1 February.

In an interview to Mint, the then finance minister Piyush Goyal had said that a decision to extend the scheme to landless and tenant farmers will be taken after the databases are created.

According to the government, the PM-Kisan scheme will help 120 million farmer families live with respect, besides helping pay for cultivation costs and reducing debts. The PM-Kisan scheme is expected to cost 20,000 crore in 2018-19, and 75,000 crore in 2019-20 and will cover 86% of all farm households in India. While the funding is being provided by the centre, it if for the states to draw up the list of scheme beneficiaries.

“The rest of the farmers will get the first tranche in the next few weeks," Modi said at the Kisan Morcha or the farmer’s rally here which was also attended by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, agriculture and farmers welfare minister Radha Mohan Singh and MPs and MLAs from the region.

Modi made a special mention of BJP and its allies ruled state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand for having according a priority to the scheme.

Joining issues with Rahul Gandhi on his promised nationwide farm loan waiver if the Congress is voted to power in 2019, Modi said that they remember farmers before the elections once in 10 years and then get gripped by the loan-waiver fever.

He argued that in 2008, while the farmers had loans amounting to 6 trillion; a loan waiver of only 52,000 crore in 10 years was given before the 2009 general elections. Also, the waiver benefited only 2 to 3 crore people, of which 35 lakh weren’t even farmers, Modi alleged. He said that in comparison, the PM-Kisan scheme will provide 7.5 trillion over the next 10 years and will benefit 90 out of 100 farmers in a village.

He said that loan waiver was an easy thing to do but it would have helped only some farmers at the top.

“Who would have thought of those who take loans from individuals and not banks?" Modi questioned.

The government proposes to reach all PM-Kisan beneficiaries by 31 March before the model code of conduct comes into effect, with the scheme expected to form a major component of the BJP electoral campaign. Modi said that the West Bengal government shall create a beneficiary list for implementing the scheme.

Modi also criticised the state governments for delaying the PM-Kisan scheme’s implementation and said, “There are some state governments who are still sleeping. They think they can do politics on this." He warned them about sending the beneficiary list in time or the farmers would spoil their politics.

Speaking at Fertilizer Corporation of India Ltd grounds here on his second visit to Gorakhpur after becoming Prime Minister, Modi invoked the slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan given by India’s late PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and said that after independence, the largest scheme aimed at farmers was beginning today.

This comes in the wake of at least 40 CRPF personnel being killed when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of the paramilitary force on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

Modi on Sunday took a swipe at the Congress, by recalling Rajiv Gandhi’s remark, without naming the late Prime Minister, that only 15 paise of every 1 earmarked for public welfare ever reached the people.

“This is a new India where whatever the central government sends, all of it goes directly to the farmers," Modi said.

Modi said that while the earlier governments indulged in a lot of talk about the farmers, the schemes remained on paper as they didn’t have the intention to benefit the farmers. He said that unlike the previous government that sat on the minimum support price (MSP) file in 2007, his government has agreed to the farmers demand and fixed the MSP of 22 crops at one-and-a-half of their input costs.

In the run-up to the 17th general election, Modi interspersed his speech with the mention of Baba Gorakhnath and said that foundation and commissioning of schemes involving an investment of around 10,000 crore across sectors such as health, roads, jobs, railways and gas were also being done on Sunday that will make livelihood easier for the Purvanchal region.

The importance of choosing Gorakhpur as a venue to mark the launch of the marquee scheme isn’t lost on its denizens and is being seen as ruling BJP’s attempt to win-bank the lost ground. Last year BJP lost the prestigious Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency earlier represented by chief minister Yogi Adityanath. It also lost the Phulpur seat won by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya in 2014 general elections.

Among a raft of projects, Modi on Sunday also laid the foundation stone of the 2777 km long liquified petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline that will connect Kandla in Gujarat to Gorakhpur and help meet a quarter of the country’s cooking fuel demand. This pipeline with a 8.5 million tonne per annum capacity comes in the backdrop of India pushing for a gas-based economy. Also, he laid the foundation stone of the Gorakhpur—Azamgarh express way. Gorakhpur has also been a focus of the NDA government as part of its efforts to revive the sick fertiliser units in Uttar Pradesh, Sindri in Jharkhand, Barauni in Bihar and Talcher in Odisha.

The Purvanchal region holds a special significance for the BJP-led central government because of substantive representation from the region in the Lok Sabha, which include Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi. The state holds a lot of importance in the 2019 general elections, with the party having won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from the state in the last general election.

“We will win this time. In the by-poll there was not much interest. We are ready and people are aware about the farmer’s issue," said 50 year-old Dinesh Pratap Singh, a BJP worker.

This also comes at a time when the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have joined hands in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Singh’s confidence found support in 55 year-old Lal Bahadur, a sanitation worker who has been deputed at the rally site for the last eight days and Vimal, a 40-year old electrician.

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