Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is in a tight spot after his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath announced farm loan waiver. Mr Fadnavis has, so far, managed to keep the Opposition at bay and stuck to his guns, stating that granting a loan waiver would not stop farmers from killing themselves. However, his own party leaders are of the view that sooner or later, Mr Fadnavis will have to cave in. Though a loan waiver may not improve the financial situation of farmers, it will certainly help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win elections.
After loan waiver was announced in the northern state, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra intensified their stir for a similar panacea by kicking off a Sangharsh Yatra to woo farmers. While Mr Fadnavis has not shot down the possibility of a waiver, he has avoided making any decision on the matter.
“We have invested mostly in the agriculture sector in this year’s Budget. We are trying to bring 31 lakh farmers under the credit system. Also, there are one crore farmers who are repaying their loans on time and the government wants to help them. The previous government had given a loan waiver worth Rs 7,000 crore. But our government has directly helped farmers with various schemes worth Rs 8,000 crore. We are firmly behind the farmers but believe a loan waiver is not the only solution,” Mr Fadnavis has earlier said.
The BJP had not promised a loan waiver for Maharashtra’s farmers in 2014. However, the Congress, NCP and even the Shiv Sena, which is in the government, have been pushing for it.
“If farmers’ loans can be waived in UP, why can’t a similar measure be announced in Maharashtra where agriculture dominates the economy and where the farmers are committing suicide in large numbers,” Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had said.
Now, Mr Fadnavis has asked his finance secretary to study the “UP model” of granting loan waivers. Mr Fadnavis also tried to put the ball in the Centre’s court by mooting the idea of all-party delegation from Maharashtra to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley. However, Mr Jaitley made it clear that the state government must manage funding if it wants to waive farmers’ loan and that the Centre would not provide any financial assistance.
A senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said, “Mr Fadnavis may not have given in as yet, but loan waivers will be announced before the next elections. Such populist measures do help parties when it comes to winning elections.”
He was pointing to the re-election of UPA government after the Rs 71,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme in 2008.