While the Congress is yet reeling from its unanticipated defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha (LS) elections, the biggest shocker for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party is- Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan. More so because just five months back it had ousted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the states. Now the question arises whether the BJP’s dole of Rs. 2000 under its Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, popularly known as PM-Kisan, worked in its favour?
In the 2018 assembly elections, Congress had won 114 of the 230 seats in MP and 99 of 199 seats in Rajasthan, ousting the Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje’s governments respectively. BJP was just a few seats behind with 109 in MP and 73 in Rajasthan.
Cut to 2019 LS polls, Congress got just 1 of the 29 seats in MP and none in Rajasthan! All the other seats of MP and 24 of the 25 seats in Rajasthan went to Narendra Modi-led BJP. The remaining one seat of Rajasthan went to Hanuman Beniwal, founder of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.
Barring Chhindwara, MP, that returned the sole Congress candidate Nakul Nath, Chief Minister (CM) Kamal Nath’s son, the BJP swept all the seats including the Guna seat, where heavyweight Jyotiraditya Scindia lost by a big margin. Notably, it will be the first time that LS will be without a member from the Scindia family.
This has been Congress’ worst ever performance!
It is significant to note that Congress had come to power in both the states in 2018 due to the severe agrarian crisis and farmers’ distress. Rahul Gandhi’s poll promise of waiving farm loans of up to Rs two lakh within 10 days of forming the governments, including in Chhattisgarh, was a major factor behind its victory.
In MP, 16 of the 29 constituencies are farmer-dominated while agriculture has always been a crucial poll issue in Rajasthan, where about 70% of the population lives in villages.
A year before the assembly elections, both the states had witnessed massive protests by farmers with a strong anti-BJP wave. In 2017 in MP, the Mandsaur constituency had become an epicentre of agrarian protests, which even led to the death of six farmers. Consequently, the then CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan launched the Bhavanter Bhugtan Yojna, which promised to pay farmers the difference between the average sale price and the government mandated minimum support price (MSP). However, farmers alleged that the scheme only benefited the big farmers with bargaining power. Eventually, the BJP lost.
Immediately after coming to power, Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot, cleared a proposal for waiving farm loans, as promised, in MP and Rajasthan respectively. The entire farming community was euphoric and started applying for the waivers. However, the excitement was short lived!
Soon after the scheme kicked in, there were reports of scams by the banks with some farmers alleging that their names were included in the list of defaulters even when they hadn’t taken a loan or the loan amount was higher than the original amount. There have also been allegations that not a single farmer has benefited from this waiver as yet. This created immense resentment among the farmers and they started losing faith in the Congress.
In fact, Rajasthan farmers even threatened to launch an agitation against Ashok Gehlot’s government, alleging it has failed to waive entire farm loans and implement the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations on declaring MSP for farm produce at 1.5 times the input cost.
“The Congress has failed to fulfil its promises; they will have to pay a price in the Lok Sabha polls,” said Amra Ram of the All India Kisan Sabha, which led the 2018 protest.
Taking advantage of this situation, BJP launched the PM-Kisan scheme on February 24, 2019, which promises to provide income support of Rs. 6000 per year in three equal instalments to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding/ownership of upto 2 hectares. The first installment of Rs. 2000 was distributed just before the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into effect. This seems to have worked out for the BJP, especially in the two states where the farmers were disappointed with Congress’ failure.
“Because of the Long March and other protests, the BJP was forced to acknowledge farmers issues. Some last minute actions, like the PM-Kisan scheme and a high-pitch campaign may have helped to appease farmers. Some farmers would have also been impacted by the ultranationalist campaign of the BJP,” said Vijoo Krishnan, a leader of the All India Kisan Sabha. This has reflected in the 2019 election results.
To give a few examples, four of the highly farmer-dominated constituencies in MP, elected a BJP candidate. In Mandsaur, 61.85% went to BJP’s Sudheer Gupta, in Ratlam 49.7% votes went to Guman Singh Damor, in Ujjain, BJP’s Anil Firojiya won with a vote share of 63.21% and in Bhind, another constituency with severe farmer clashes, 54.93% vote went to BJP’s Sandhya Ray.
It seems as if Rajasthan’s farmers are highly dissatisfied with its state government and are now hopeful of some help from the BJP, mainly due to its PM-Kisan scheme, leading to the latter’s sweeping victory. Even the Congress’ NYAY scheme, promising to give Rs. 72,000 annually to the poorest 20% did not succeed in convincing the small farmers. It is nothing short of an anti-incumbency wave!
Notably, the BJP’s 2019 manifesto, promises to extend its much touted PM-Kisan scheme to all the farmers.
All in all, farmers’ distress and the consequent PM-Kisan scheme, Modi’s appeal of nationalism and Congress’ apathy towards the farmers’ concerns along with a directionless campaigning with only anti-Modi speeches and alleged corruption in Rafale deal led to a landslide victory for the BJP.
Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj Abhiyan and a leader of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, rightly said, “Until February, [farmers issues] were very much on the national agenda. But then came Pulwama and Balakot — the perfect ambush. In the end, farmers did not vote as farmers…This is a failure of the farmers’ movements, who failed to politicise the issue sufficiently, as well as of political parties. It is a major setback, a moment to introspect.”
The Rs. 2000 dole indeed worked for the BJP!