Congress-BJP war on farm loan waivers intensifies ahead of key MP by polls

A political war of words has broken out between the BJP and the Congress ahead of the crucial by polls for 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh with the Congress claiming that the state government has finally accepted that the previous Kamal Nath government had fulfilled its promise to waive-off farmers’ loans and therefore, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan should apologise for spreading alleged falsehoods, a charge rejected in toto by the BJP, which accused the Congress of misleading the people on the issue using half-truths.

MP Congress leaders have cited state agriculture minister Kamal Patel’s written reply in the assembly, given to Congress MLA Jaivardhan Singh, to claim that loans worth more than Rs 11,000 crore owed by more than 2.6 million farmers were waived off in 2019. The state was ruled by a Congress government led by Kamal Nath in 2019.

Farmers’ loan waiver has remained one of the major poll issues and a point of conflict between the BJP and the Congress since the last assembly elections. BJP has accused the previous Congress government in the state of betraying farmers by not fulfilling its poll promise to waive off loans up to Rs 2 lakh per head within 10 days of assuming power.

The political temperatures on the issue soared further following a tweet by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday, which said, “Congress: Jo kaha so kiya, BJP: Sirf jhoothe waade”, meaning ‘Congress kept its word while BJP has made only false promises’.

State Congress president Kamal Nath, who also happens to be the leader of Opposition in the state assembly, said, “Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been misleading people right from day one on farmers’ loan waiver issue. Now, the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have got exposed for their lies with the state government’s own reply in the state assembly, which suggested that loans worth more than Rs 11,600 crore of 2.69 million farmers in 51 districts were waived by the then Congress government. Now, Chouhan should tender an apology to the people of Madhya Pradesh.”

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However, agriculture minister Kamal Patel hit back at Kamal Nath accusing the Congress of sophistry.

“Congress and Kamal Nath are anti-farmers. The then chief minister Kamal Nath had signed a document that loans worth Rs 55,000 crore of 4.8 million farmers up to Rs 2 lakh per head would be waived off within 10 days. Do the Congress leaders have any document to show that any farmer’s loan up to Rs 2 lakh was waived? In fact, the Congress leaders including state Congress president Kamal Nath should tender an apology to people for their false statements otherwise Nath should step down from both his positions- leader of Opposition and state Congress president,” Patel said.

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In June 2018, during campaigning for the assembly elections, the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said in a public meeting in Mandsaur that if the party was voted to power, farmers’ loans would be waived off within 10 days otherwise, the chief minister would lose his position. The promise to waive off the loans was also part of Congress manifesto released ahead of November 2018 elections.

After BJP dislodged the Congress government in March this year, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan alleged that the previous Congress government had only waived off Rs 6,000 crore worth of farmers loans contrary to what the party had promised before the elections.

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