- The waiver will apply to Gujarat's rural areas
- It will benefit lakhs of villagers in the state
- The opposition has termed the decision as a mere lollipop
A day after the new Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh waived loans availed by the farmer community, the BJP-led administration in Gujarat has tried to match the gesture with a populist measure of its own. The Vijay Rupani government did away with rural electricity bills amounting to Rs 650 crore today, in a move that is expected to benefit lakhs of villagers.
According to an order issued by state Power Minister Saurabh Patel, the waiver will apply to domestic, agricultural and commercial connections across the state's rural zone.
The minister said that although a number of power connections had been cut off in the past months over complaints of electricity theft and non-payment of bills, this decision will help reconnect these customers to the grid. "It will benefit as many as 6.22 lakh villagers," he added.
However, the opposition Congress termed the bill waiver as a "mere lollipop" offered by the government to Gujarati villagers. "This is just a tokenistic move by the government in view of the upcoming bypolls on December 20. It won't work. The Congress is receiving a lot of support from the public, and the BJP is in a very shaky space," said Manish Doshi, chief spokesperson of the state Congress.
Mr Doshi, however, admitted that it was a positive step. "The Congress welcomes any action by the government that will benefit the people... even if it is being done under pressure," he said.
Congress leader Kamal Nath signed off on a massive farm loan waiver hours after taking over as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh on Monday. The loan waiver, amounting to at least Rs 50,000 crore, is expected to benefit around 33 lakh farmers. A day later, the new Congress government under Bhupesh Baghel made two key announcements aimed at helping the farm sector: the immediate waiver of short-term loans to the tune of over Rs 6,100 crore and enhanced minimum support price from Rs1,700 to Rs2,500 per quintal of maize. According to the Congress leadership, a similar announcement would be made in Rajasthan too.
Waiver of agricultural loans was a key promise made by the Congress ahead of the recent assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Earlier today, party president Rahul Gandhi said he will not let Prime Minister Narendra Modi "rest or sleep" until the centre provides similar relief to farmers across the country.