Nationalism trumps real issues in Marathwada

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A listless Madhav Belande sits in his two-room home in Borgaon Arj village worrying about the Rs one lakh loan his father had taken to tend his two-and-a-half acre farm growing cotton and maize.

Madhav’s 55-year-old father Rameshwar committed suicide three years ago, turning his world topsy-turvy. The government was prompt with relief, making a fixed deposit of Rs one lakh in his name as a relief measure.

“Soon after the relief was announced, moneylenders came at the door-step seeking repayment of small loans his father had drawn,” Madhav told DH narrating the difficulty he had in convincing them that he had not received a penny from the government in cash.

Tejrao Patil Kale, an official in the village market committee, recalled the difficulty farmers faced with the tomato crop last year as prices plunged, forcing them to throw their farm produce on the roads.

“We don’t need any loan waiver or freedom from loans, just ensure a fair and assured price for our crop and we will take care of the rest,” Kale said.

Madhav rued that the loan waiver by the government had failed to get him out of the vicious cycle of debt.

"I am forced to approach money lenders as credit societies refuse to grant me loan citing the pending dues," he said.

In Aurangabad district alone, 77 farmers have committed suicide between January 1 and July 31 this year.

However, these issues are missing from the Assembly election campaign trail, which is dominated by themes of nationalism, abrogation of Article 370 and Pakistan.

Phulambri elected BJP leader Haribhau Bagde in the previous Assembly elections.

Bagde is the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly and is credited with building roads in his constituency is along the highway that leads to the famous Ajanta Caves, about 100 km from Aurangabad.

BJP’s Bagde faces the challenge from Kalyan Kale of the Congress, who lost the 2014 Assembly election by a margin of over 3,600 votes.

Political analysts point out that the previous elections were a four cornered contest with all the key players – BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress— contesting separately and not as an alliance. In the 2014 polls, Shiv Sena had polled 17,518 votes while NCP got 31,878 votes,

With alliance sewn up for 2019, Bagde appears to put up a formidable challenge to Kale.

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