New Delhi: The Congress and some other opposition parties which were looking for an ammunition to fire at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and cause political damage have found one. The on-going farmers' agitation in some parts of the country has come as a big relief to them.
Though, ostensibly, they are meeting on Wednesday to talk about the Presidential election , they are likely to mainly discuss the growing farmers' demand for loan waiver and other benefits. The time is opportune for them to express solidarity with them and try to widen the gap between them and the ruling party at the Centre.
The statement of finance minister Arun Jaitley that the Centre would not support the loan waiver scheme and that the state going for it will have to find ways and means to fund it may come handy to these parties.
Of them, the Congress has already taken a lead and joined hands with agitating farmers in Madhya Pradesh. It may do the same in other states where the farmers are not at peace with themselves. The party suffered a setback when a video showing a party leader inciting the mob against violence went viral.
The set-back was,however, temporary. After distancing itself from him and condemning the action it is back to en-cashing the farmers' anger. Some left and other parties are too likely to stoke the fire.
All these parties and also some ruling party members have ignored the economic issue and considered only the political gains and losses. Two states have already decided to write-off the farmers' dues. Two other states, Telangana and Chhatishgarh had written off their dues before Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra which followed the former.
These four states have taken a combined burden of over Rs one lakh crore only in this respect. Taken together with other debts the amount will become sizable. Maharashtra alone has a debt burden of over Rs four lakh crores including the burden which will be caused by the decision to implement the waiver scheme this year.
Since the Centre has refused to come to the rescue of these states, they will have to fend for themselves. As the tax base by these states and some others is expanded to the limit and additional taxes will create fresh stir, the alternative is to cut down developmental budget and reduce expenditure. This, in turn . will affect the farmers too but no one seems to care.
The need was to create better infrastructure, improve irrigational facilities and ensure supply of adequate seeds and fertilisers. Better return on investment by offering higher support prices and creation of good storage facilities will also provide a long term relief to them. But instead of these the opposition is pressing for short-term gain like loan write-off.
It has been also ignored in the hullabaloo that among the farmers there are many willful defaulters. They could pay back but they would not because of the belief that during elections the loans would be waived off. There would be more such demand during the general elections two years later as they know that the BJP would like to come back to power at all costs.
Two years is a long time as far as the agitation is concerned. For the ruling party the immediate target should be to defuse the present crisis and think of 2019 elections later.