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Maharashtra farm loan waiver: BJP moves to build political consensus

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-06-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra has launched a major political outreach to build consensus over a farm loan waiver that provides relief to maximum number of farmers and is also not a burden on the state finances.

On Friday morning, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and other NCP leaders in Delhi to explain to them the modalities of the two-pronged farm loan waiver declared by the state.

Fadnavis was in Delhi to join other BJP chief ministers and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents for the submission of nomination papers by NDA’s presidential poll nominee Ram Nath Kovind.

The chief minister was accompanied by state revenue minister Chandrakant Patil in the meeting with the NCP leaders. Patil heads the ministerial group formed by Fadnavis as an interlocutor between farm activists and the government to work out modalities of loan waiver.

“We are trying to work out a kind of loan waiver that provides relief to maximum number of farmers and builds widest possible political consensus. That is why I have been holding talks with all political parties,” Patil told reporters in Delhi. Patil said the government would release the final modalities of the loan waiver plan in some days.

“Such loan waivers are not announced and implemented overnight. It requires extensive study and wider consultations to be effective and that is what we are doing,” Patil said.

He said apart from the NCP leaders, he had met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has been insisting on a loan waiver without riders, and Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana MP Raju Shetty.

“I have had two meetings only this week with Uddhavji and I am going to meet him the third time. Tonight, I will meet Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan,” Patil said. On the meeting with Pawar, Patil said the NCP chief had made several “good suggestions” to make the loan waiver more effective.

He reiterated that the state government was coming out with a “never before in the history of Maharashtra” kind of loan waiver.

“The two-pronged loan waiver will help maximum number of farmers. The loan waiver for farm debt that became outstanding till 30 June 2016, and that has been capped at Rs1 lakh per farmer regardless of land-holding unlike Punjab which has capped it for farmers holding up to 5 hectares. This would help 83% farmers in Maharashtra and is estimated to cost Rs25,000 crore. For those farmers who regularly repaid their loans up to 30 June 2016, but whose accounts went into default between June 2016 and June 2017, we are working out a relief package so that their credit discipline is appreciated. Together, these two measures would cost around Rs37,000 crore which is by far the largest that any state government has given,” Patil said.

BJP functionaries said the effort to reach out to the opposition parties and Shiv Sena was also aimed at pre-empting a possible opposition charge that the loan waiver was arbitrarily planned and targeted.

“Never before has any government had such a wider discussion with all political parties on loan waiver. We don’t want them to mislead farmers after the loan waiver is set rolling,” said a state BJP functionary, requesting anonymity.

He said in all these consultations, the opposition leaders and even Shiv Sena were told “point-blank” that a “complete loan waiver without riders was not on offer”.

“In particular, it has been conveyed to Shiv Sena that a total loan waiver without riders would become unviable and would actually work against small and marginal farmers who will have to share the relief with big farmers who have taken on large loans,” said the BJP functionary.

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