Modi in Malout: PM hard-sells MSP increase, Akalis face flak because of Khattar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi got down to hard-selling the Minimum Support Price (MSP) sop offered to the farmers recently by his government at a rally in Malout in Punjab on Wednesday. One can infer from the contents of his speech and his tone and tenor that the event was the launch of his election campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha and subsequent Haryana polls.
The 'Thanksgiving' rally was organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its ally in Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the latter also bringing a sizable number of participants from neighbouring Haryana. Malout was chosen as a strategic venue as this cotton producing centre is located close to Haryana and Rajasthan borders.
Modi and his colleagues are trying to reap maximum political mileage from the MSP announced for Kharif crops recently that involves 150 per cent of the input cost of the farmers. Many more such rallies are expected in the days to come, particularly in poll-bound states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where elections are scheduled before the Lok Sabha polls. Punjab and Haryana being the key agricultural states were the ideal location for Wednesday's rally.
Besides the Akali leaders including former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Badal and union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar also attended the event.
As expected Modi went on to launch an attack on the Congress and its dynastic politics holding the party responsible for the woes of the farmers over the last 70 years. “The farmer is the aatma and ann daata of the country. The Congress has always betrayed the farmers. It has tried to make them a vote bank instead of working for their empowerment,” he charged while saying that the previous Congress governments implemented non scientific schemes. Hitting out at the Gandhi family, he said that development and prosperity of one family has always governed the Congress agenda. He also accused the Congress of misleading the farmers and its leaders now getting sleepless nights over the pro farmer initiatives being introduced by his government.
“We are the ones who are working for Samman and Swabhiman of the farmers. We fulfilled our promise on One Rank One Pension for the defence personnel and we have fulfilled the promise on MSP,” he claimed.
Referring to the recent MSP hike, he said that in certain cases the hike announced amounts to almost 200 per cent of the farmers' input costs. Modi claimed that even the small contract farmer would benefit from the initiative.
Besides attacking the Congress leadership, he also took pot shots at the Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Referring to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) coming up at Bathinda that is the nerve centre of the cancer belt in Punjab, he asked the audience to tell Amarinder to expedite the work on the project. Congratulating Khattar for Haryana emerging as the top destination n north India for ease of doing business according to fresh rankings of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the commerce and industry ministry, Modi asked the people to ask Amarinder government why Punjab is lagging behind. “The down slide has continued where Parkash Singh Badal left the state,” he said.
He marketed various schemes launched by his government over the last four years including the Jan Dhan and the Ujjwala Yojana.
The Congress too has taken to the ground trying to tell people that what Modi government is trying to sell as a revolutionary intervention is nothing more than a routine increase in the MSP of Kharif crops. Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had told media persons a couple of days ago that the party will compel Modi to answer in the Parliament once he is through with gathering headlines after 'hoodwinking the people'.
Surjewala said, “They were the ones who had talked of the non-feasibility of giving 50 per cent over and above the input costs. Did they take the increased costs of diesel and fertilizers while calculating the MSP that has been announced ?” He pointed that what has been given is far less than what the calculations actually come down to.
He challenged Modi to answer whether the current regime is not the first one to tax the farmers by imposing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on inputs? He also asked Modi why his government is shirking from the issue of loan waiver to small farmers. The Congress has also been attacking the Modi regime for the fleecing of farmers through Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana that has led to private insurance companies making money while the farmers have been left high and dry.
Both the Akali-BJP combine in Punjab and BJP in Haryana aimed at boosting their political fortunes through Modi's rally. They were quick to announce the thanksgiving rally and burnt midnight oil to ensure a good gathering for the rally. However, many farmers' organisations have rejected the olive branch extended in the form of enhanced MSP by the Modi government.
On the political level, just after the rally the Punjab Congress attacked the Akali leadership for backstabbing Punjab instead of raising their voice for demanding the just rights of the state. Soon after Modi's rally, both Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress and Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Aam Aadmi Party slammed the Badals for compromising Punjab's interests by sharing a stage with Khattar.
The @Akali_Dal_ has again betrayed Punjab. Shocking that P.S. Badal & @officeofssbadal allowed Haryana CM @mlkhattar to attend the farmers rally despite knowing his anti-Punjab stance on critical water issues. They also failed to pursue the Chandigarh issue with @narendramodi ji.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) July 11, 2018
Saddened to see senior Badal once a protagonist of PB’s issues like Syl,territorial n Chandigarh share stage with Hry Cm with whom we have a direct conflict n utters no word for PB,besides d humiliation meted out to our turban by Pm Modi who removes it disrespectfully in seconds!— Sukhpal Singh Khaira (@SukhpalKhaira) July 11, 2018
While bestowing a turban on Modi ji’s head today’s “Dhanwad”rally @officeofssbadal n SAD forgot that last time they did so at a rally in Jagraon,they sought a promise from the Pm to restore the land of 50 K Pbi farmers uprooted by the Gujarat Bjp Govt! “Dhanwad” for what?-khaira— Sukhpal Singh Khaira (@SukhpalKhaira) July 11, 2018
Senior Congress leader and jail and co-operation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa hit out at the Akalis saying the SAD invited Khattar for the Malout rally and conveniently chose to forget that it was the same Haryana chief minister who had demanded Chandigarh just the previous day, a demand rejected by Amarinder. He questioned how could SAD leaders forget that Khattar has also been demanding completion of Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal which would rob Punjab of its precious water turning it into a barren land.
The charges and counter charges are expected to continue. What would be of interest is whether the Akalis and the BJP can gain anything out of the MSP hike hype being generated by Modi in the coming polls.