Naidu comes up with 'mother of all populist promises'

It is touted as the “mother of all populist promises.” But it will cost Andhra Pradesh exchequer just over Rs 70,000 crore.

In a desperate bid to come to power, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu have promised to waive off all the crop loan arrears of farmers if his party is voted to power in the 2014 elections.

Ironically, during his tenure as chief minister between 1995 and 2004, Naidu had opposed populist policies and was hailed as a frontrunner in implementing aggressive reforms. However, since losing power in 2004 elections, he has been desperately trying for an image make-over. As a result, he has abandoned the reforms baggage and embraced populism with gusto.

“Once the TDP comes to power in the elections, the first file I will sign as the chief minister will be on waiving all outstanding crop loans along with interest,” Naidu has been telling the gatherings during his ongoing marathon 2,340-km long padayatra across the state. He has been asking farmers not to pay any crop loans till the next elections.
Political observers say that it is by far the most audacious of all poll promises. According to official estimates, the total outstanding crop loans as on March 31, 2012, year stood at Rs 59,000 crore.

“This is expected to cross Rs 70,000 crore along with the penal interest by  2014, if the farmers stop paying loan dues following the call given by Naidu. If the entire outstanding loans have to be waived, the government will have to spend 40 per cent of its budgetary resources on this scheme alone,” an official said.

The TDP leaders are hopeful that the crop loan waiver, along with the promises of free power, free education and free rice for the poor, would fetch rich political dividends for the party at the hustings.

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