Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attacked the Congress and the two other key opposition parties of Uttar Pradesh -- Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party -- accusing them of doing little for farmers. Rolling out the populist mega scheme for cash transfer to farmers at Gorakhpur - the stronghold of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath -- he said previous governments "talked a lot" and came up with "schemes on paper".
"The Congress, the Mahamilwati (adulterated) people - SP, BSP... they are all same. In 10 years, once they remember farmers. Just before elections. Farm loan waivers fever they get. They fool you and take votes," he added.
The acute farmers' distress in the country has pitched farm sector reforms at the centre stage of electoral issues and anger of farmers has been seen as one of the reasons for the BJP's electoral setback in the heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
While the Congress has been relentlessly flagging farmers' issues, the government, in the interim budget earlier this month, announced a cash transfer scheme for small and marginal farmers. But the amount -- Rs 6000 in instalments of Rs 2000 - has drawn jeers from the Congress.
Ahead of today's inauguration of the scheme, senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram called it a "cash for votes" scheme.
Pointing out that under the government's scheme, farmers are getting Rs 200 a month, or Rs 17 a day, Mayawati said it was an "insult" to them. This is a "living example of the government's small and immature view on farmer distress... It is a reflection of the BJP's arrogance," she said.
Farmers have been demanding for long for a complete loan waiver scheme, which has been frowned upon by various think tanks and individual economists. Loan waiver, they said, is a short-term relief and is not a solution to the problems that plague the farm sector.
"The decision to waive loans would have been an easy and convenient one for us too," the Prime Minister said today. "We also could have distributed 'rewri' (a type of sweets) for political and election benefits, but we can't commit such a crime. Loan waiver benefits only a select few".
The government, he said, is spending a mammoth one-lakh crore on an irrigation scheme that would help finish the projects that were incomplete for the last 30 to 40 years.
For now, the cash transfer scheme would be handy for them to spend on immediate needs, he said, transferring the first instalment of Rs 2,000 each to over one crore farmers. Another one crore farmers are expected to be covered in the next two to three days.
Ahead of the interim budget, the Congress had also announced a cash transfer scheme -- a Minimum Basic Income for the poor -- if it was voted to power.