Farmers play hardball as Shah tries to woo them

Farmers play hardball as Shah tries to woo them

'Will apologise if Centre found writing offindustrialists' loans'

Farmers play hardball as Shah tries to woo them

BJP national president Amit Shah, who found himself cornered when farmers threw hard questions at him, offered to publicly apologise if it was proven that the BJP-led Centre had waived loans borrowed by industrialists.

This comes in the wake of Congress president Rahul Gandhi repeatedly mounting attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that the Centre had written off loans of "India's richest" worth Rs 1.3 lakh crore while refusing to waive farmers' loans.

"Let me guarantee you, the Modi government has not waived a single rupee of loan for any industrialist," Shah told farmers during an interaction here. He even dared Rahul to prove his claims. "If he has any records, let him make it public. I am ready to answer and even apologise to the farmers of Karnataka," Shah said.

The BJP chief interacted with sugarcane farmers as part of his two-day tour of Hyderabad-Karnataka that started Sunday.

Farmers played hardball, seeking clarity on implementation of the M S Swaminathan committee report, which recommended a minimum support price (MSP) of 50% profit above the cost of production. Shah had to repeatedly clarify that the Centre had announced that the MSP will be 1.5 times the production cost of kharif and rabi crops.

Shah assured farmers that there were no plans to levy income tax on them. He also promised them that loopholes in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (crop insurance) will be addressed.

Farmers interrupted Shah several times during his remarks. He pleaded to them to remain calm and was visibly irritated. At one point, he frowned: "Kya samvaad aise hota hai? (Is this how an interaction turns out?)"

Payment within 90 days

If the BJP is voted to power in Karnataka, a law will be passed mandating sugar factories to pay farmers within 90 days, Shah announced. "This has been done in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. This will be done here as well and will be announced in our manifesto," Shah said.

After 2014, the BJP has been able to form governments in many states only because farmers voted for the party, Shah said. "Even in Karnataka, the BJP will form a pro-farmer government," he said.

Wooing sugarcane farmers, Shah said the BJP-led Centre had banned import of raw sugar, imposed 14% duty on raw sugar for industrial purpose and the rate of ethanol (a byproduct) was up from Rs 11 to Rs 48.

Before the interaction, Shah visited the house of Shivaraj Basalingappa Alreddy, a farmer in Mangalagi village, who committed suicide unable to repay Rs 8 lakh he borrowed for his daughter's marriage.

Shah attacked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for not implementing the Pradhan Mantri Irrigation Yojana.

"We want to irrigate 16 lakh hectares, but Siddaramaiah is scared that if he allows this scheme to be implemented, Modi's popularity will double," Shah said. Further, he challenged Siddaramaiah to deny that output of pulses had doubled under the Modi regime.

Later in the evening, the Congress released a video clip from the interaction, which showed a mike being snatched from a farmer who was asking Shah a question on job creation.

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