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Dissecting Shivraj Chouhan & Vasundhara Raje's new-found love for farmers

Oblivious so far to the plight of the tiller, their sudden cosying up may have roots in something beyond the upcoming assembly polls

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Vasundhara Raje Scindia
Vasundhara Raje Scindia

Last week, Finance Minister clarified in the the parameter for calculating the cost of production of farm produce. On Tuesday, Chief Minister announced a loan waiver of Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers of the state in her Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal. In Bhopal, the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led (BJP) government announced a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal over the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and paddy farmers. These decisions, made in the span of a fortnight, were no coincidences, particularly for the government at the Centre and the administration in the two states. The Centre and the two state governments have paid inadequate attention to agrarian distress in their nearly four-year long tenures, which had contributed to farmers’ agitations in and in mid-2017. The immediate spur isn’t just the assembly elections in Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh (and Mizoram) by the end of the year. In Madhya Pradesh, are due in the assembly constituencies of Kolaras and Mungaoli on February 24. Both the constituencies fall in the Guna constituency of leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, and were won by candidates in 2013. Many in the speak of Scindia as the party’s likely chief ministerial candidate against Chouhan for the assembly polls. Defeating the candidates in Scindia’s pocket borough would strengthen Chouhan and the BJP’s morale in the run up to the assembly polls. A win in either of the seats would also help Chouhan forget the memory of the loss in the Chitrakoot assembly by-election in November, which he had made a prestige issue over his government’s Bhawaanter Bhugtan Yojana, or price deficit financing scheme, to cover the rabi crops of gram, and mustard, and The had retained the Chitrakoot seat. In the case of Rajasthan, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s leadership is being questioned from within the after the party’s rout in in Ajmer and Alwar, and by-poll in the assembly seat of Mandalgarh. On February 1, as Finance Minister Jaitley had read out his speech in the Lok Sabha, the news coming from was distressing for his party. The BJP's defeat in Ajmer, Alwar and Mandalgarh was comprehensive. Both Ajmer and Alwar constituencies have eight assembly constituencies each. In all, the lost all the 17 assembly constituencies – eight each of Ajmer and Alwar seats, and the lone assembly constituency of Mandalgarh. The had won all the 17 assemblies in 2013. assembly has 200-seats. CM Raje’s farmer friendly Budget, therefore, had one eye on the assembly elections at the end of the year, but the other to reinforce that she remained her party's best bet to lead into the assembly elections.

The by-election results have strengthened the hands of her detractors within the party. legislator Gyandev Ahuja’s audio recording has gone viral on social media. Ahuja is yet to deny the recording where he suggests that it was time Raje is replaced with another leader, or else is set to lose the assembly election. Om Mathur, considered close to chief Amit Shah, is a potential rival. Raje’s farmer friendly Budget could make it difficult for the party to brass to bring her to the Centre. The biennial elections are scheduled for April, which would give the leadership opportunity to induct Raje in the union cabinet and get her elected to the The term of the assembly ends on January 20, that of assembly on January 7, Chhattisgarh on January 5 and Mizoram assembly completes its five-year term by December 15. In 2013, went to polls on November 25, on December 1, Chhattisgarh in two phases on November 11 and 19 and Mizoram on November 25. This leaves nearly nine months for the state governments to prepare. All the three north Indian states are currently ruled. The had recorded convincing wins in and in the 2013 assembly elections. In the 2014 elections, barely four months after the assembly elections in these states, the had swept all the 25-seats in Rajasthan, won 27 of the 29 in and 10 of the 11 of Chattisgarh’s seats. Together, it won 62 of the 65 seats on offer in these three states. A defeat in the assembly elections could have a bearing on the polls.

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 14:58 IST
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