As the Lok Sabha elections 2019 enter the last 2 phases of polling in the predominantly agro-economy belt of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is preparing to play up the flagship agriculture-oriented schemes of both the central and state governments to woo farmers.
The saffron party, which is locked in a bitter triangular fight with Congress and the formidable Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance, is pulling all stops to convince farmers that it is committed to their cause.
UP agricultural minister and former UP BJP president Surya Pratap Shahi told Business Standard that the party would showcase top agricultural schemes, especially Rs 36,000 crore farm loan waiver by the Yogi Adityanath government, apart from the Centre’s PM Kisan Yojana that promises an annual payout of Rs 6,000 to small and marginal farmers, with the maximum number of 21.4 million or nearly 18% of beneficiaries from UP alone.
Compared to Western UP, agricultural land holdings in Eastern UP are comparatively smaller, and thus have a higher percentage of small and marginal farmers. Besides, the economy in Purvanchal (Eastern UP) is largely dependent on agriculture vis-à-vis Western UP, which has a higher concentration of small, medium and large industries owing to its vicinity to the National Capital Region (NCR) and better road connectivity.
Although the crop loan waiver was announced in 2017, the BJP government had decided to continue with the scheme in the current election year, thus allowing an opportunity to eligible farmers, who could not avail of the benefit earlier, to still apply for the waiver of loans sourced from notified banks.
“Under the crop loan waiver, nearly Rs 200-300 crore has already been distributed to farmers in every district of the state. The farmers are happy with the performance of the government and it has created a positive image of the ruling party,” Shahi noted.
He claimed that while a majority of eligible farmers had already been covered under the farm loan waiver, the state government had allocated a budget of Rs 1,000 for farmers, who could not benefit because of other reasons.
Out of 23 million farmers in UP, 92.5 per cent or 21.5 million fall in the category of small and marginal. At the end of March 2016, total agricultural loan outstanding in UP stood at Rs 1.21 trillion, which increased to Rs 1.30 trillion at the end of March 2017.
Meanwhile, he said the party would also contrast the UP crop loan wavier scheme with that of the Congress-led governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. “They (Congress) announced the scheme without any mechanism, which is resulting in teething troubles. We (BJP) had put in place an elaborate system, supported by follow ups and review by the chief minister (Adityanath) himself to ensure it worked efficiently and in a time bound manner,’ said Shahi.
Besides, the party is sanguine about Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM Kisan), under which more than 10 million UP farmers have already received the first installment of Rs 2,000 in their bank accounts, totalling over Rs 2,000 crore. PM Kisan is aimed at benefitting more than 120 million small and marginal farmers across India and would cost Rs 75,000 crore annually. The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Gorakhpur on February 24.
Apart from these two mega schemes, other ‘pro-agriculture’ steps, including the hike in the minimum support price (MSP), announcement of paring farm loan rates during natural calamities and bringing animal husbandry under agricultural schemes, have made the farmers supportive of the BJP government, Shahi added.