BJP, Congress leaders’ Telangana visits put spotlight back on farmers’ woes

Farmer issues are to take centre stage in Telangana as BJP chief JP Nadda heads to the state on Thursday and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi plans to meet families of farmers who committed suicide in the last few years this weekend.

While Gandhi is expected to address a rally in Warangal and hold farmer-specific meetings, BJP president JP Nadda is also set to visit Mahabubnagar on Thursday while home minister Amit Shah is expected to participate in the BJP’s ongoing Praja Sangrama Yatra on May 14.

Among the first political visits by Gandhi after a short break and a personal visit to Nepal that triggered a controversy over his visit to a nightclub in Kathmandu, the anti-TRS tone that he is expected to take in his visit will also be keenly watched. Telangana CM K Chandrasekhara Rao had started meeting regional parties for an anti-BJP front, and has also roped in political strategist Prashant Kishor to fine-tune his party’s strategy. Assembly elections in Telangana are scheduled for next year. Kishor’s talks to join the Congress failed recently, and one of the reasons was also said to be his association with regional parties, such as TRS, that are electorally opposed to the Congress.

K Keshava Rao (KK), TRS Secretary General and Rajya Sabha MP, said with regard to farmers, “the truth was for everyone to see, as the KCR-led state government had not only encouraged crop diversification, but also ensured the highest production of paddy.” “Even when the Centre refused to procure our paddy giving the excuse of parboiled rice, we are finding solutions. I wouldn’t waste time countering what Rahul Gandhi says because the farmers of the state know how much the CM has done for them.”

BJP, while claiming that Rahul Gandhi has no “moral right” to visit Telangana after the UPA tenure saw the highest farmers’ suicides, is to hold a mega rally in Hyderabad against TRS on Thursday, while TRS had decided to hold district level protests against the Centre’s paddy procurement policy. Congress state president Revanth Reddy has appealed to farmers of the state to send “at least one member of their family to the rally of Rahul Gandhi, who will look at solutions for their problems.” Those in know of the matter said the rally was an attempt to boost the morale of the Congress workers and strengthen the party’s organisation, particularly in south and south-east regions of the state, specifically in places such as Nalgonda, Warangal and Khammam where the Congress party still has some hold.

Aside from meeting students of Osmania University that was once the centrestage of the Telangana movement — an event that now looks doubtful with the ongoing protests, Gandhi is scheduled to participate in two events organised by the Warangal Raitu Sangharshana Sabha where he will interact with family members of deceased farmers. The Congress party has already intensified its public outreach in the state and has been holding public meetings under the banner of ‘Mana Vooru – Mana Poru’ (Our village – Our fight) in many districts. At Rahul Gandhi’s rally, the party is expected to come up with the ‘Warangal Declaration,’ a vision document of sorts, related to farmer welfare, crop procurement and minimum support prices (MSP), land acquisition, electricity and other issues related to farmers.

Telangana BJP vice president NVSS Prabhakar told ET that Gandhis “have no moral right to visit Warangal as their tenure during the UPA was the worst for the farmers of this region, and many youths had lost their lives in Telangana movement.”

“Their sudden affection for Telangana is not natural, but just a ploy. The state government is arranging a smooth ride for him which shows the Congress and TRS are colluded,” he said.

While many activists have pointed out that the the rate of suicides in Telangana are much more than the national average and many alleging that the State government’s relief hadn’t reached many families, Union Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had recently said that the number of farmer suicides in Telangana has declined.

Smaller players in the State have also amplified their political campaigns. Aam Aadmi Party that recently declined TRS’s invitation to be part of a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance and started its own yatra on April 14, while president of YSR Telangana party YS Sharmila, daughter of late united state CM YS Rajashekar Reddy is also on a yatra of the State, running a campaign against KCR and family for “cheating farmers”.

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