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Rahul Gandhi speech in Mandsaur positions farmers issues as key poll plank for Congress

One year after the Mandsaur agitation, Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched his party’s campaign for the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections by promising a farm loan waiver and justice for slain farmers

Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 Updated: Jun 06, 2018 21:43 IST
Punya Priya Mitra
Punya Priya Mitra
Hindustan Times, Mandsaur
Rahul Gandhi,Mandsaur,Rahul Gandhi speech in Mandsau
Congress president Rahul Gandhi pays tributes to the victims of police firing during 2017 farmers’ agitation, in Mandsaur.(PTI)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday launched his party’s campaign for the upcoming assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh by promising to waive farm loans in ten days if the party is voted to power.

He also said that if the Congress forms the government, it would act against those responsible for the death of six people in Mandsaur in police firing during last year’s farmers’ agitation. These have been the two main demands of the farmers who are on a 10-day statewide strike.

At a farmer’s rally at Pipliyamandi near Mandsaur to mark the first anniversary of the police firing, Gandhi said farm loan waiver worth Rs 70,000 crore was given by the UPA government and lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ignoring farmers.

“Modi will only waive loans of rich industrialists and refused to waive farmers’ loans when I requested him. But the Congress governments in Karnataka and Punjab, which has Congress governments, have waived farm loans, showing that the party is with the farmers,” he said.

For the first time, Gandhi also laid out his party’s vision for providing employment to farmers and youth of the country. “We will set up food processing units near farms where the farmers will sell their goods directly and their children will get employment in these factories,” he said.

While some BJP ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have announced farm loan waivers to a certain limit, the Madhya Pradesh government did not make any such announcement. Instead, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a new incentive scheme in which a farmer gets 10% subsidy on the principal amount while repaying the loan.

Defending the state government’s decision, BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said because of pro-farmer policies, farmers in Madhya Pradesh were not in debt, and hence there is no need for a loan waiver.

“We have spent Rs 20,000 crore on providing financial aid to farmers in one year, and we give loans at minus 10%. Only 24% farmers have defaulted on loans, and for them too, we have given interest waiver, and have come out with one-time settlement policy,” Agrawal said.

Rising unemployment among the youth is being seen as a failure of the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre after the BJP promised to create two crore jobs a year. The Centre has, however, claimed that there is no robust methodology to evaluate the jobs being created.

At his Pipliyamandi rally, the Congress president also accused Modi of selling out to China. “Our Indian shops are full of Chinese goods, he (Modi) wears a Chinese watch, he sits in the swing with the Chinese president in Gujarat and then China attacks India at Doklam and Modi says nothing.”

Gandhi said it is his dream that the next time he comes to Mandsaur, “I should be able to carry a phone marked ‘Made in Mandsaur’, and people in China should be consuming garlic produced in Mandsaur.”

Gandhi also met families of farmers who were killed in police firing last year.

Madhya Pradesh Congress unit president Kamal Nath and campaign committee chairman Jyotiradiya Scindia who also spoke on the occasion tore into the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government highlighting its ‘failure’ to tackle the farm distress that has hit the state.

Scindia alleged that the Bhavantar scheme, hailed as panacea for all problems of farmers in the state, has failed and farmers were getting lower price for their produce when compared to when Congress was in power. He accused the Chouhan government of having farmers’ blood on its hands and promised that the Congress would give justice to the farmers.

Kamal Nath attacked the government for its lack of progress in developing the state. “The youth want work, but this government has failed to bring industries, rather they are closing down,” he said.

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 20:54 IST