VIJAYAWADA: Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has challenged Leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu to resign if the latter fails to prove his party MLA Nimmala Rama Naidu’s claim that the TDP government implemented interest-free farm loan scheme during its five-year rule.
During a debate in the Assembly on drought situation in the State on the first day of the budget session on Thursday, Rama Naidu claimed that YSR interest-free loan scheme, announced by the Chief Minister, was nothing new, but an old one introduced by the Kiran Kumar Reddy government and that the TDP government continued the same after 2014.
Reacting to the TDP MLA’s claim, the Chief Minister challenged Naidu to explain how much amount was disbursed under the scheme between 2014 and 2019. “Will he resign and go home if he fails to prove the claims,” Jagan asked and offered to show records to prove that such a scheme was not implemented between 2014 and 2019.
Naidu, in response, said the agriculture sector achieved 11 per cent growth rate during his government. He was interrupted by Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy amidst demands of ruling party MLAs that Naidu accept the challenge.
“All we have asked is ... just explain how much money was paid to farmers under the zero-interest loan scheme. However, the Leader of the Opposition is sidetracking the issue by stating growth rate in agriculture sector,” he said and went on to explain that double digit growth rate being claimed by the TDP was not in agriculture, but in aquaculture.
“They saw real growth in aquaculture and claim 2,000 lorries of fish increased in Kadapa district alone. All the time they link agriculture growth rate to increase in fish yield,” Buggana said sarcastically.
The TDP chief responded by stating that finances were not the records written by individuals. “GSDP and GDP are not calculated by the minster in his house, but are done based on statistics. Without knowing it, how you (Buggana) have become Finance Minister and how you are going to do (budget), only God knows,” Naidu hit back.
However, Naidu was again interrupted by Buggana, who said the point here was how much the previous government had paid under the zero-interest loan scheme. “Without explaining it, Naidu is deviating from the subject,” he pointed out.
A visibly upset Naidu hit back stating that State government was not in a position to even supply seeds and power to farmers. “They have records on what and how much amount was spent. During our government, farmers have never taken to roads. Today, due to your policies, they are hitting the streets in protest. You cannot provide even seeds, but speak of bettering their future. Who will believe it? We told farmers what we could do in five years and we did it,” Naidu said and sat back, while the Chief Minister was found laughing at the reaction of the former.
The Finance Minister yet again stood up and said the point was how much the TDP government had paid to farmers under the scheme in the last five years. It evoked laughter from treasury benches. When Minister for Irrigation P Anil Kumar said ‘40 years industry’ (Chandrababu Naidu) was upset and unable to tell a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a direct question, Opposition MLAs stood up in protest. As Rama Naidu persisted with his claim that the scheme was an old one, the Chief Minister intervened again and wondered why the TDP legislators were telling lies instead of congratulating the government for extending benefits to farmers. “Are they (TDP MLAs) humans or demons?” the Chief Minister thundered.
Taking exception, Naidu demanded to know how many times did Jagan as Leader of Opposition congratulated the TDP government. “They have records. Let them tell. Telling what is in records is not my duty,” Naidu said and observed that what the Chief Minister stated was based on the data provided to him by his Peshi, which would act according to the directions of Jagan. He also advised Jagan to behave in a dignified manner.
On the occasion, YSRC MLA Ambati Rambabu wondered as to why Naidu was taking it as a prestige issue. “If he persists, nothing will happen, but his position will move to the last bench,” he said and observed that this Naidu (Rama Naidu) and that Naidu (Atchannaidu) would push Chandrababu Naidu into troubled waters.
When Rama Naidu explained that the interest-free loan scheme was implemented between 2014-15 and 2015-16 for those who repaid loans under `1 lakh, Jagan intervened and said not a single paise was paid to farmers. The verbal duel by YSRC MLAs and the Chief Minister’s challenge made Naidu lose his cool and he said he was being insulted. “At every step, they are insulting us. Jagan Mohan Reddy is not even respecting the age (of legislators). He is calling us names. It is not acceptable. Have we come here to be insulted? Behave in a dignified manner,” he shouted and demanded why the Speaker was not interfering.
When Minister for Finance said the issue was diverted, Naidu flared up again and advised them to verify records. Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana took exception to Naidu’s outburst and criticism of the Chief Minister. Following it, Jagan explained that for 2018-19, crop loans to the tune of `76,721 crore were paid and had the State government paid its share of `3,068 crore (4 per cent), it would have been treated as zero interest, but the same was not done.
When the TDP MLA tried to corner the State government on ‘seed scarcity in the State’, the ruling party MLAs turned the tables by blaming the former TDP government for the present crisis. Naidu left the House for some time and came back apparently with an intention of giving a reply, but the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.