New Delhi: Under attack for the agrarian crisis, the Modi government is reportedly contemplating several incentives, including a big financial package, to woo farmers ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The government's likely announcement of incentives to boost rural income will come following feedback given by BJP leaders and MPs, besides other stakeholders, they added. The government may announce the new set of measures for farmers before the end of the winter session of Parliament on January 5.
Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions on a wide-ranging farm relief plan with finance minister Arun Jaitley, BJP chief Amit Shah and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. The timing is significant as it came soon after the BJP was defeated in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the recent state polls, where rural distress was a key factor.
The Congress, after wresting power in the three states, made good on its campaign promise to waive farm loans almost immediately after taking charge. Congress president Rahul Gandhi said his party and others would "not let PM Modi sleep or rest" until an all-India loan waiver scheme was announced.
But sources say the central government's plan is to go beyond loan waivers. The PM also also remarked on Thursday that Congress' loan waivers were only meant to win elections, indicating that the BJP may have something else in store.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram took a dig and said the government's plan is to pay farmers the difference between the minimum support price and market price. He said this was already tried by the BJP in Madhya Pradesh but brought no relief to the indebted farmers.
"The prime minister says that Congress governments' loan waivers are only to win elections. So, shall we assume that PM's 'Farmers' Relief Plan' is intended to lose elections?" he tweeted.
"The 'pay the difference' plan will help only the farmer who has a marketable surplus. What about the farmer who has no marketable surplus? He is also in debt," he tweeted.
Chidambaram also said that eight months' revenue collection was less than 50 per cent of target and the fiscal deficit was 115 per cent of the estimate. "Where is the money for the new plan," he asked.
Sources said the Agriculture Ministry has prepared a road map and made a presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting both short and long term "sustainable" solutions to various issues that are impacting farmers and causing agricultural distress in the country.
Senior BJP leaders, including union ministers, have been holding consultations over the matter. Shah also met Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh separately late on Thursday, though there was no official word on what transpired in the meeting.
The ministry has studied various state models, including loan waiver announced in seven states, input subsidy being given in states such as Odisha and the 'Rythu Bandhu' scheme of Telangana, among others.
"In the meeting with the PM, the ministry made a presentation and the discussions revolved around the key issues facing the farming community and the possible solutions that can be provided before general elections," a highly placed source said.
The ruling BJP was defeated in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the recent state polls, where rural distress was a key factor.