Assembly election in Punjab is just months away, and with the wheat procurement season on, grain markets across the state have become an ideal place for political leaders to woo farmers.
In what may be called “goodwill” visits aimed at political gains, the leaders of three major political parties-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-have been holding one-on-one conversations with farmers, who have been sitting in grain markets in the scorching heat to sell wheat. Besides visiting grain markets in their areas, these leaders have also been visiting purchasing centres in other districts to hear farmers’ grievances.
The AAP’s farmer wing had also set up help desks in the grain markets in Malwa to help farmers sell their yield. Party senior leaders, including Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, repeatedly interacted with farmers in the grain markets, besides overseeing the procurement process.
SAD leaders, who had drawn flak from farmers after the whitefly hit cotton crop last year, are leaving no stone unturned to rebuild their goodwill among farmers. From halqa incharges to MLAs, leaders have been regularly visiting grain markets in their respective constituencies. Even Union minister for food processing and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal paid surprise visits to several grain markets during her recent tour of Bathinda parliamentary constituency. She also directed all deputy commissioners in her constituency to ensure smooth procurement.
Senior Congress leaders, mainly Manpreet Badal, have been visiting purchasing centres in Mansa, Moga, Bathinda and Muktsar districts over the past two weeks. Manpreet told HT that after visiting the grain markets, it came to fore that the government had once again failed to ensure smooth procurement. “There have been many problems in the ongoing procurement. It is shocking that the government has failed to make arrangements even for basic amenities, like drinking water and toilets, in grain markets,” Manpreet said, adding that the ill-preparedness of the state government could be gauged from the controversy related to delay in releasing the cash credit limit by the Centre, besides the sloppy lifting of wheat in grain markets.
Former Sangrur MP Vijayinder Singla is also paying visits to the purchasing centres of Sangrur and Barnala districts to rebuild trust among farmers. Singla had lost his security deposit from Sangrur constituency in the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
Meanwhile, rural development and panchayats minister Sikander Singh Maluka said the procurement season, which is in its fag end now, went off well, as farmers faced no difficulty in selling wheat. “After getting money from the Centre, the state government has made payments to farmers on time,” Maluka said.