Hindi belt rout: Farmer talk up, Ram temple down

Sources in BJP said that a number of pro-farmer measures are on the anvil, while the state units have been directed to correct perceptions through immediate measures ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. (PTI file photo)

Numbed by Congress riding to power on farmers' loan waiver promise in three Hindi belt states, BJP seems to have gone on an overdrive to woo the farming classes and shed some of its hardliner pitch on issues like Ram temple.

Amid a realisation that hardline Hindutva is not helping the party that much, at least two Union Ministers on Tuesday advocated patience on Ram temple issue even as RSS affiliates, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have been upping the ante on Ayodhya.

Sources in BJP said that a number of pro-farmer measures are on the anvil, while the state units have been directed to correct perceptions through immediate measures ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

A day after Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, soon after taking oath, waived the short-term crop loans of farmers, the Vijay Rupani-led BJP government in Gujarat announced waiver of electricity bills in rural areas to the tune of Rs 650 crore.

BJP state president Basant Panda in Odisha, a state from which the saffron party has high hopes in 2019 polls, also made a promise to waive farm loans in the state if it comes to power in the 2019 Assembly elections.

Assembly elections in Odisha coincide with Lok Sabha polls.  BJP also planned  'Mandi Chala Abhiyan' from Wednesday till January 7 to highlight the problems faced by farmers in Mandis.

Parliament gherao

BJP’s pro-farmer pitch in Odisha comes days after the ruling Biju Janata Dal gave a call for gherao of Parliament in Delhi on January 8 demanding adequate minimum support price (MSP) for paddy.

In Delhi, as Rahul Gandhi launched a massive attack on Modi government on farmer issues, declaring that he will not let Modi sleep till he waives farmers’ loans, BJP fielded its Union Ministers to blunt the attack.  

Hitting out at Gandhi, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described his remarks as “a new low in the country's public discourse” and dared the Congress President to come to Parliament and debate the Rafale issue. Reminding that Congress has been in power for about 60 of the last 70 years, Prasad asked “what have they done for farmers? They are doing just drama now.”

At the BJP Parliamentary party meeting, Home minister Rajnath Singh advocated patience on Ram temple issue while Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, speaking at a media news conclave favoured temple construction at the disputed site through mutual consent.

The responses are significant, coming after mounting pressure from VHP to bring legislation this year itself in Parliament to construct Ram temple and RSS also backing the demand for its early construction.

BJP, which has expressed clear support for Ram temple, has not come out with a categorical stand on the demand for legislation on Ram temple while some NDA allies, including Ram Vilas Paswan have clearly expressed their reservations against any such law.

Divided house

While there is a dominant view within the BJP that initiating steps for the temple's construction will boost its prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, NDA allies are not on the same page.

Rajnath Singh also did some pep talk telling party leaders that the opposition has no leader to match Modi's popularity in 2019 LS polls. Briefing reporters about the meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, quoting the Home Minister, “We are far ahead of the Opposition. Circumstances are very good for us".

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Hindi belt rout: Farmer talk up, Ram temple down

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