MUZAFFARNAGAR (Uttar Pradesh): Seeking to rewind the clock to better times, RLD chief Ajit Singh says bringing back farmers' smiles and industrial prosperity will be his twin focuses if he is voted to the Lok Sabha from this western Uttar Pradesh constituency.
The Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, who has tied up with the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party to form a 'grand alliance' in Uttar Pradesh, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's move to demonetise high value currency destroyed the informal economy of the area.
"Farmers have not got their dues for over a year despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise of clearing them within 14 days of selling sugarcane to the mills," Singh told PTI.
"Modi does not speak the truth," he said two days before Muzaffarnagar goes to the polls on April 11 in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
The Muzaffarnagar candidate of the 'mahagathbandhan' lost from Baghpat in 2014 and is confident of winning this election.
His son Jayant Chaudhary is being fielded as a candidate of the alliance from Baghpat.
According to Singh, the son of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, pending dues of farmers is one of the major issues in this sugarcane belt.
"Earlier, only one-third produce of sugarcane was sold to mills. The rest was sent to crushers where farmers were not given any money," he explained.
"Now, 99 per cent sugarcane goes to mills so they get the money. Modiji promised sugarcane farmers that they will get their dues within 14 days and if they don't then they will get 15 per cent interest on the outstanding amount too. However, no amount has been paid to the sugarcane farmers," Singh said.
In Uttar Pradesh alone, the dues of cane growers adds up to Rs 10,000 crore, he said, adding that Modi has made speeches from Red Fort that his government repaid 89 per cent of the amount to cane farmers.
"But the public realises that Modi does not speak the truth. His words and figures cannot be believed," the 80-year-old leader said.
Asked why he chose to contest from Muzaffarnagar, Singh said he wants to bring back industrial prosperity in the district, get debts of farmers written off and make sure their dues are paid.
"Muzaffarnagar was India's richest district. The maximum number of tractors were sold here. There are 87 industrial units here. There were steel industries too, but all that is finished now. My biggest challenge is to bring that prosperity back. Not easy but that should be done.
"All debts of farmers should be written off and it must be ensured that the minimum support price is given to the farmers," he told PTI. Imposing tax on tractors is an indicator that the government has no idea about the rural economy and what it entails.
"Tractors used to be tax-free but have now been declared commercial vehicles. Now there is GST too if you are buying a tractor or its parts. They are saying, every 10 years you have to buy a new tractor. No farmer can afford it. They run them for 40 years. They (the government) have no idea of the rural economy," the RLD chief said.
The veteran politician dismissed the notion of polarisation in the aftermath of the 2013 Hindu-Muslim riots in the area.
The constitution, with a population of 41. 5 lakh, has 41 per cent Muslims and 51 per cent Hindus.
On February 13 last year, a day after his 79th birthday, Singh said he came to Muzaffarnagar with the decision to spend his 80th year getting rid of communal divides and spreading brotherhood.
"For the last one year, I have been to at least a dozen areas and spoken to different groups. I have managed to sort out the differences between them. So that thing is gone now. The communal divide is not there," Singh said.
Singh said he also went to nearby Kairana and resolved the Hindu-Muslim issues there, adding that the BJP government in the Centre did nothing to rehabilitate the riot victims.
"No, they did not rehabilitate riot affected victims. The Modi government is full of lies. They cannot be trusted. In Kairana, I helped them reach a compromise. In Muzaffarnagar, we have not yet succeeded in persuading the displaced people to come back as they have started their new lives outside," Singh said.
He also highlighted the issue of electricity prices and listed the many problems facing people.
"The price of electricity doubled in UP to Rs 800 a month. How can a poor man who earns Rs 4,000 per month pay Rs 800 for electricity? "Unemployment is a very big issue. Notebandi destroyed the informal economy," he said.
In 2014, BJP's Sanjeev Balyan won the seat by defeating BSP's Kadir Rana. All eight seats in western Uttar Pradesh voting in round one went to the BJP last time.
There was a bypoll held in Kairana subsequently that went to the RLD. Under the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the SP will field candidates in 37 seats, the BSP in 38 and the RLD in three.