NEW DELHI: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi hit the dust trails of Uttar Pradesh once again. If Bhatta Parsaul and land acquisition were the themes last time, this time a farm loan waiver is his demand in the poll-bound state. And the BJP dismissed the call as a “seasonal expression of sympathy”. The Congress is hoping the ‘Deoria to Delhi Kisan Mahayatra’, which kicked off on Tuesday, will give the party a cross-caste platform to access voting blocs beyond the Brahmins whom it’s assiduously wooing through the projection of Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate. But this ‘mahayatra’ is an entirely Rahul show.
A debt waiver is part of a three-point formula aimed to reach out to farmers. The second demand is that the State government should slash the “unrealistically high power tariffs for rural consumption”. A big hike in the minimum support price for paddy, wheat and sugarcane is the third demand.
“What is happening now is that the Modi government has waived loans of Rs 50,000 crore of their industrialists… That’s also important for an economy in bad shape. But you want to waive loans for big people. Why not for the farmers? Like we waived Rs 70,000 crore, Modiji should waive loans of farmers of UP and [other parts of] the country.” There is an estimated Rs 50,000 crore total debt on farmers, which works out to Rs 27,300 on every farmer in the State, according to Congress sources. The State has nearly 1.8 crore farming families, the largest in the country. Of which a whopping 80 lakh are debt-ridden and 18 per cent under BPL, but not the ration system.
The BJP took a dig at Rahul’s poll pitch. “Rahul Gandhi who goes abroad to attain knowledge and concentration, was in UP today for a seasonal expression of sympathy in the season of elections,” said party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi.