Kamal Nath signed the papers for farm loan waivers two hours after taking oath.
- Congress had promised loan waiver ahead of elections
- Farmers' distress, lack of jobs had resulted in BJP's defeat in the polls
- Loan waiver will cost at least Rs. 50,000 crore, according to reports
In his first act after taking charge as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Kamal Nath signed off on a massive farm loan waiver promised by the Congress during its poll campaign. A loan waiver for debt-hit farmers headlined Congress' election promises in the three heartland states it took from the BJP, including Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
"The new Chief Minister did in two hours what he had assured he would do within 10 days of taking power," the Congress in Madhya Pradesh tweeted. Some 33 lakh farmers, owing Rs 70,000 crore in unpaid dues, will benefit from the move
The loan waiver will cost at least Rs 50,000 crore, according to reports. According to an official in the chief minister's office, loans up to Rs 2 lakh will be waived from nationalised and co-operative banks till March 3.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who attended Kamal Nath's swearing-in, tweeted, "1 done, 2 to go." Mr Gandhi was referring to similar promises in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Loan waivers were an important issue in the recent state elections. The BJP, which ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years before losing last week, is seen to have suffered most in parts of the state with more rural and farm distress. Rahul Gandhi launched the party's campaign in Mandsaur, the epicenter of farmer anger and protests, and promised loan waiver.
Questioned over the economic merits of such a move, Kamal Nath shot back: "I want to ask the banks and economists that when you waive off loans of huge industrialists, it doesn't bother you but when it's about farmers, then you get a stomach ache?"
In its election manifesto, the Congress had also promised a social security pension for farmers, who had held massive protests in the state last year, and a rebate in the registration fee of land documents, besides financial help of Rs. 51,000 for the marriage of daughters of small cultivators.
Madhya Pradesh faces a debt of at least Rs. 1.6 lakh crore, according to official records. But the actual figures could be well over Rs. 1.87 lakh crore.