BIKANER: The Narendra Modi-led government's many programmes have made little or no difference to their lives but many farmers in Bikaner say he is still the man to vote for.
Farmers across Rajasthan's border district of Bikaner, which votes on Monday in the fifth round of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls, cite the government's growth policies and its stance on terrorism for their support.
For many, the BJP's candidate does not matter just as the governments' track record on tackling agrarian distress doesn't. Programmes like PM-Kisan and an increase in the minimum support price have had virtually no impact on their lives, said Jhandu Ram from Nal village.
Sitting atop a heap of chana (gram), the 56-year-old said farmers rarely ever come to know about schemes.
When they do, the benefits hardly make a difference. "To avail the benefits of MSP, we have to sell it at government centres and receive the money in four months. But we need the money today, not months later. And even then it's just Rs 300 extra. There is no use of these schemes," he said.
The MSP for gram is set at Rs 4,600 per quintal (Rs 4,620 official rate), and the farmers sell it at the market for Rs 4,300, he added.
In his view, however, there can't be a better prime minister than Modi for the country.
"We can never have a PM as good as Modi, the kind India hasn't seen before. He has kept India's money inside. Unlike the Congress, he didn't let anyone steal it from us.
"Not only he brought fame to the country, but he also showed Pakistan its place by killing 350 in response to 40 of our jawans," he said. Ram was joined by his brother Bhinvji, who echoed the sentiment. Bhinvji added that as far as farmers are concerned, no party has done anything worthwhile.
"Modi has improved the overall condition of the country. But to be honest, I don't think anyone has done anything for the farmers, be it the Congress or the BJP," the 68-year-old said.
Another farmer, Bhanwar Singh, 55, from Kawni village, said governments have come and gone and all they do is announce schemes without any ground-breaking change in the reality.
"Nothing has reached us so far. And now if the government changes at the Centre, another set of new schemes will be announced. Who is actually availing these schemes? Not us," he said. While he said he wants Modi to return to the Centre, he also added that it would make no difference to farmers in the country.
"Modi has done a lot for the country, he has a clear mindset for growth. But when it comes to farmers, I don't think it will ever change. We want to sell at a higher price, consumer wants to buy it cheaper. In the end, it's a no-profit-no-loss situation for us," said Singh, resignedly.
Not everyone agrees though. Amid the pro-Modi voices at the Anaj Mandi, Ganesharam, 68, complained about the incumbent government and slammed all political parties equally for not doing anything for farmers.
"Modi has done nothing except for making tall claims. The Congress is no different. Nobody has done anything for farmers," he said.
Asked who should win the election, he had a rather grim reply while raising doubts on the government's Balakot airstrike claims.
"I would choose Congress over Modi any day. At least Congress doesn't lie and hide behind the Army. Is there a proof India killed 350 in Pakistan? They should have some proof, where is it? If Modi comes back to power, there will be no point in living".
Work or no work, a better life or not, many aggrieved farmers insist on voting for Arjun Ram Meghwal, the sitting BJP MP for last two terms, who is contesting against his cousin Madangopal Meghwal from the Congress.