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BW Businessworld

BJP’s Big Farm Push

The recently announced Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna — a repackaged crop insurance scheme — is one such measure.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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The natural trajectory for the BJP has been to grow from urban centres to rural areas. This has been the experience in many states. After its claim to be the largest political party in the world, the BJP, however, felt that its recent reverses in rural India — be it Bihar or rural areas of Gujarat in the recently held local panchayat elections — called for a redressal mechanism.

Add to that the all-important assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, dubbed by many as the semi-final before the 2019 general elections, and the need to put the party’s farmer-friendly face became imperative.

The BJP government, under PM Narendra Modi, has been noticed for big-bang economic reform measures like ease of doing business, or startup India. It, however, needed a major policy push to identify the party with the farmers — still the largest voters’ bloc in the country.

The recently announced Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna — a repackaged crop insurance scheme — is one such measure.

PM Modi wrote a series of tweets to mark the arrival of the scheme, while BJP chief ministers held press conferences in their various states on this “landmark scheme”.

Modi described the scheme wherein the centre will provide Rs 8,800 crore annually in a move that will transform the lives of the farmers in a big way. The home minister Rajnath Singh added that the insurance scheme will have the lowest premium for farmers in the history of Independent India.

Sources say that the coming Union Budget will have farmers, farm distress, and rural areas as one of the key focus. Coupled with this crop insurance scheme, the party wants to tell the country that it represents the interests of farmers and rural India as well, and not just urban India, as alleged by Rahul Gandhi through his “suit boot ki sarkar” jibe.

That the BJP considers this farm insurance scheme as landmark is evident. The party was, in fact, preparing for the big announcement for some time. In its farmers’ cell meeting held near the national capital, the issue was raised with Rajnath Singh, agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh and BJP party president Amit Shah. The party now plans a farmers’ awareness week between March 9 and March 15 “to announce the arrival of the scheme”. This will be followed by a big farmers’ “thanksgiving rally” in Delhi.

But will this change the perception about the BJP? If the BJP insiders are to be believed the party has just taken “the most revolutionary scheme for farmers” , in a very long time, which will also result in a “solid harvest of votes” in the coming elections.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 08-02-2016)