PM’s bid to woo farmers shows BJP worried about rural distress 

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meet in Jaipur on Saturday showcased the beneficiaries of different government welfare schemes, there was a clear attempt to woo farmers.

Modi not only reiterated his promise of doubling farm income by 2022, he also outlined in detail the input costs and revised minimum support prices (MSP) of the major crops grown in Rajasthan, including bajra, jowar, makka, and lentils.

“Vasundhara Raje ki sarkar kisan ke pasine ki ek ek boond ka samman kar rahi hai (The Vasundhara Raje government respects the hard work of the farmers),” Modi said during his speech.

“The Center is working with the state government to ensure proper arrangements are made for procurement. We are committed to streamlining the entire process from seed to marketing,” he added.

Many farmer leaders, however, were unimpressed with the speech.

“The prime minister gives impressive speeches but the implementation on the ground is lacking. We will have to wait for the procurement season to see how many farmers actually benefit on the ground. While many crops have not been procured on MSP in Rajasthan, only 7% procurement of crops such as moong and tur has been done on MSP (during last season),” Kisan Mahapanchayat leader Rampal Jat said.

Some political analysts were also critical of the announcements made by the government.

“The MSP hike is a lollypop to the farmers. Had the government implemented the Swaminathan Commission report, then the MSP would have moved up further. Such half-hearted decisions are a reaction to the farmers’ agitation in Rajasthan and the long-march in Maharashtra. The government needs to devise a system to bring out the farmers from the clutches of moneylenders,” political analyst Rajiv Gupta said.

The Congress has alleged that the move on MSP was a case of too little too late and was aimed at the forthcoming elections as the kharif crops will be harvested in October-November, which is when Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, go to polls this year.

The BJP in Rajasthan is worried about rural distress and its impact on the forthcoming elections. During the prime minister’s public meeting on Saturday, there was an overt attempt to placate farmers and send a signal that the government is sensitive to the farmers’ needs. At the beginning of the rally, a group of farmers from different districts greeted Modi on the dais and also presented him with a plough.

Experts also said that without MSP being within a legal framework for enforcement, the support price remains discretionary and farmers are left at the mercy of the whims of the next government.

The Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP), the body which fixes MSPs for 23 kharif and rabi crops has asked the Union government to bring in a ‘right to sell at MSP’, which will give some actual legal teeth to this whole exercise.

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