The code of conduct for zilla parishad elections across 27 districts may be in force but ruling party politicians are wooing sugarcane farmers.
On Tuesday the cabinet cleared a proposal to grant subsidy worth Rs 20 crore to the powerful sugar barons — many also double as politicians from the ruling alliance.
This cabinet decision is hinged on a stipulation that the subsidy will be granted way after the elections are over during the summer months of April and May.
For the record the subsidy is to ensure farmers can market excess sugar cane produce this year (bumper crop).
The sugar commissionerate estimates that this year there has been a yield of 737 lakh metric tones of sugar cane – 295 lakh metric tonnes up from last year.
"We will give orders to increase the 180 days crushing season by a whole month. And, we are in the process of identifying mills that can crush excess output so that farmers are not at disadvantage," said Rajgopal Devera, sugar commissioner.
He admitted that the cabinet decision had cleared subsidy of Rs 20 crore to those mills having a greater crushing capacity.
However, many would question the government’s opportunate timing for announcing the subsidies.
"The DF government always dangles a carrot to the farmers before elections. But, this subsidy is less for the sugar cane producer and more a bid to make their own sugar lobbies strong,’’ said Neelam Gorhe, spokesperson for the Shiv Sena.
Gorhe may have a point.
Most large sugar factories in the state are owned by ruling Congress-NCP politicians. For instance this subsidy will largely benefit Marathwada sugar lobby – stronghold of politicians like Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union minister of state for Rural Development Suryakanta Patil (NCP), Industries minister Ashok Chavan.
The subsidy will go the sugar co-operatives, which are expected to hand it over to their farmers as transportation cost. The cash subsidy will also go to the factories for the low recovery of sugar.