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Farm reforms: Demystifying MSP

The total value of all agricultural output was around Rs 40 lakh crore in FY20, while the total value of MSP operations was around Rs 2.5 lakh crore. If only 6.25% of the agri produce is MSP-driven, then why this hue and cry about MSP?

Sanju Verma

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If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. – Jim Rohn

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is indeed the greatest change-maker in post-Independence India, transforming the country using contemporary logic, brick by brick, so that the fruits of development are shared by those who need them the most.

Coming to India’s agrarian story, a lot has been done in the last six-and-a-half years. In the last three decades, global milk production has increased by more than from 59%, from 530 million tonnes in 1988 to 843 million tonnes in 2018. India is the world’s largest milk producer, with a 22% share of the global production, followed by the United States and China. India has over 80 million dairy farms that produce more milk than the entire European Union. Under the milk revolution, which gathered huge momentum under the Modi government, milk production in India today is 50% higher than that in the US and almost 300% higher than that in China. Milk has never been a part of the MSP, so that should tell a lot about the relevance of MSP!

Be that as it may, the Modi government in 2018 increased the MSP at 1.5 times the production cost, which is the chief determinant of MSP today. This is based on the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and National Commission of Farmers, 2006, which the Congress clearly failed to implement for eight long years between 2006 and 2014, before it was ousted. Shanta Kumar recently said, when asked about the new farm legislation and MSP, “On MSP, the Modi government has clarified that it will stay, but the question we (the committee) have raised is that MSP only relates to 6% of big, elite farmers who sell their crop in mandis. Over 86% are small farmers who don’t go to the mandi to sell their produce, and the new bills will give them the strength to sell outside the mandi at better prices.”

The total value of all agricultural output was around Rs 40 lakh crore in FY20, while the total value of MSP operations was around Rs 2.5 lakh crore, corroborating the argument by Shanta Kumar, that if only 6.25% of the agri produce is MSP-driven, then why this hue and cry about MSP? Clearly, the entire MSP-related controversy is a needless one, that is, in large measure, a manufactured controversy by an electorally debilitated Opposition that is running out of issues to fret and fume about. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has categorically assured farmers that his government will continue with the MSP. Hence, any apprehensions on this front are not required. The hard reality is that MSP matters only to a small number of farmers in states like Haryana and Punjab.

Indeed, the MSP has skewed the agrarian economy towards a handful of crops and wreaked havoc on farm productivity and soil quality. Higher prices for wheat and rice have resulted in farmers in states like Haryana and Punjab growing water-intensive crops that have immensely depleted the water table. Nearly 80% of the land in Punjab is over-exploited and the number is around 50% in the case of Haryana. The open-ended system of procurement by FCI ensures that it has Rs 1.5 lakh crore worth of extra food grains in its godowns, which often gets wasted if there is a bumper crop but not enough matching demand. This wastage will get curtailed significantly under the new agrarian structure once new farm legislation brought in by the Modi government is put to work.

Truth be told—while 46% of India’s farm output is not crops—it comprises milk, fishing, forestry, and fruit and vegetables (F&V). In fact, the production of F&V is greater than that of cereals, but F&V as a segment gets no MSP support, nor does milk production. Hence, the flawed argument that MSP is the solution to every agri problem is absolutely wrong. Despite no MSP support, the total value of annual milk production in India is anywhere between two to three times higher than that of paddy, wheat and sugarcane production, all put together. MSP was started in 1965, when India was a food-deficit nation, but today, India is a food-surplus nation.

The agitation against the three farm bills brought in by the Modi government is being driven increasingly by vested interests. With 3% mandi taxes, Punjab collected Rs 1,750 crores by way of mandi taxes in FY20 and a similar amount by way of a rural development cess. Interestingly, arhatiyas or middlemen earned a commission of over Rs 1,600 crores in FY20! If the government’s APMC reforms result in alternative markets being created and farmers are able to sell directly to buyers, the arhatiya commissions will get impacted, and that is precisely why middlemen in the guise of farmers are trying to blockade India’s national capital.

While the Congress is against the farm bills today, in its 2019 manifesto, it had promised to abolish APMCs. Bhupinder Singh Hooda wanted APMCs to be dismantled when he was the chief minister of Haryana in 2013, and that is precisely what Sharad Pawar had wanted too when he was the Union Agriculture Minister under a Congress-led regime in 2010. The hypocrisy of the Congress is further established by the fact that while it is opposing the Modi government’s farm bills pertaining to contract farming today, it had no problems with it back in 2006 in Maharashtra, when Vilasrao Deshmukh of Congress had been the chief minister. Again, in 2003, when Digvijay Singh of the Congress was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, contract farming had been permitted. The biggest testimony that the farmers’ protests are being politicised is the fact that, while some groups have a problem with contract farming under the new farm laws, these groups have never bothered to raise even their little finger against the practice being prevalent in the farming of maize, barley, sunflower and some varieties of wheat, and that has been in vogue in the Congress-ruled Punjab for the last few years.

MSPs are not being phased out despite various challenges, because the Modi government believes in consensus building and wants to stand in solidarity with our farmers, and rightfully so, given its commitment to double farmers’ income by 2022. That said, about 70% of Punjab’s wheat output is procured by government agencies and this number is about 85% for paddy. Contrast this with the fact that just around 10% of UP’s wheat is procured at MSP, while UP produces double the wheat Punjab does. While mandi prices are typically 20-50% below the MSP for most crops, the farmers from Punjab are almost completely insulated from any market-risk and, hence, farmers from Punjab have no reasons to complain whatsoever.

A related point worth keeping in mind is that even with the MSP-based procurement intact, Punjab›s agri-GDP is rapidly slowing. Agri-GDP grew by 5.7% a year between 1971-72 and 1985-86 versus India’s 2.3%. Between 1986-87 and 2004-05, Punjab’s agri-GDP grew at less than 3% and post-2005, Punjab›s agri-GDP fell even further to just 1.9%, versus India’s average of over 3.5%. The reason for this is that MSPs are often already higher than global prices for wheat and rice. Hence, market prices or MSPs cannot rise beyond a point for these two crops. Other cash crops and livestock that yield significantly higher returns are not being cultivated by farmers in Punjab, while farmers in other states are doing so, thereby, dragging down Punjab›s agri-GDP number.

Even today, each farming household in Punjab gets Rs 1.2 lakhs worth of subsidies related to water, electricity, fertilizers, interest subvention and the like. The farm bills promise farmers the freedom to sell wherever and to whomever they please. This corrects the restrictive trade and marketing policies followed so far. The economic rationale of all these bills is to provide greater choice and freedom to farmers to sell their produce and buyers to buy and store, thereby, creating competition in agricultural marketing. This competition is expected to help build more efficient value chains in agriculture by reducing marketing costs, enabling better price discovery, improving price realisation for farmers, yet reducing the price paid by consumers. It will also encourage private investment in storage and thus reduce wastages and help contain seasonal price volatility.

The Modi government has also been simultaneously engaging in direct cash transfers to farmers, as is evident from the Rs 6,000 per year that is paid to over 14 crore farmers under the PM Kisan scheme. Over Rs 94,000 crore have been paid via PM Kisan since its inception two years back, with over Rs 22,000 crore paid during the last six months of the pandemic alone. Talking of infrastructure, the Modi government, in August this year, launched a new Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) worth Rs 1 lakh crore, meant for setting up storage and processing facilities, which will help farmers get higher prices for their crops. In September this year, the government launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana—a flagship scheme for focused development of the fisheries sector in the country with an estimated investment of Rs 20,050 crore during a period of five years as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package. In June this year, the Modi government announced a Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund with an interest subsidy scheme to promote investment by private players in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants, a move which is expected to create 35 lakh jobs. So the government has been working at strengthening farm infrastructure. This, along with the new farm bills, will boost the productivity of the agrarian sector to areas beyond just growing traditional crops like paddy or wheat.

The case for MSP should not be overstated. The MSP is an indicative price and does not necessarily lead to farmers being better off all the time, as the final price is still driven by the market. MSP has always been an administrative mechanism and never a legislative one. How will MSP be ensured in private transactions? Well, private trade will be above the rate of MSP. That is the whole point. The farmer will obviously engage with private traders only when he gets rates that are better than MSP. If the farmer gets less than the MSP in private trade, the farmer can always opt for selling his produce in the APMC mandi and pocket the difference between the market price and MSP.

Has the Modi government strengthened MSP? Of course, it has. The numbers speak for themselves. The Congress-led UPA, between 2009 and 2014, had purchased only a measly 1.52 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of pulses at MSP. Meanwhile, the BJP-led NDA, between 2014 and 2019, purchased 76.85 LMT of pulses at MSP. For oilseeds, the numbers are 3.65 LMT under the UPA and 30.17 LMT by the BJP-led Modi government. It needs to be mentioned here that while the MSP is applicable to 23 crops (7 cereals, 6 pulses, 7 oilseeds and 4 commercial crops), in most states in India, over 50% of the MSP is cornered by just two crops, namely, paddy and wheat.

One of the most important farm reforms, apart from those discussed above, are the amendments to the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, which takes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes out of the list of essential commodities. It thus removes stockholding limits on these items except under “extraordinary circumstances”, such as war and natural calamities. The amended law will attract corporate and foreign investment in the food supply chain, for instance, for cold storage and warehouses, by addressing fears of excessive regulatory interference, thereby bringing price stability.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”This powerful quote by Georg C. Lichtenberg best explains how PM Modi is leading the landmark decision to change India’s rural landscape through a series of epoch-defining and transformative measures.

The author is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

New global partnerships in making

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CHINA VS US

Last week in his address on 22 June at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the next day, on 23 June at BRICS Summit in Beijing, the Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need to forge greater synergy amongst countries for greater international development and close the development gap, by pooling resources, platforms and networks of development partnerships. Noting that the international community is keen to achieve more equitable, sustainable and secure development, Xi said it is important to seize opportunities, meet challenges head-on, and work on the implementation of the ‘Global Development Initiative’ (GDI) to build a shared future of peace and prosperity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden at the G-7 Summit, in Schloss Elmau, Germany, on Monday. (ANI/Arindam Bagchi Twitter)

Chinese President Xi Jinping at 12th BRICS virtual summit on 18 November. ANI

The Chinese president proposed the GDI in his speech to the 76th Session of the UNGA in September last year. The plan charts a course for international development. Meanwhile at the recent G7 Summit at SchlossElmau in the Bavarian Alps, Germany, President Biden on 26 June relaunched his initiative to provide infrastructure funds to poor and developing countries only a year after a largely similar scheme was unveiled at the G7 conference in Cornwall last July under the label ‘Build Back Better World’. The fund was relaunched at the start of the G7 in Germany on Sunday as the ‘Global Investment and Infrastructure Partnership’. The avowed aim of this initiative is to become an alternative to the Chinese belt and road initiative (BRI) that Beijing has used for more than a decade to expand its economic ties and influence with developing countries. The partnership aims to generate $600bn of private and public funds by 2027, with $200bn over the next five years coming from the US. Projects cited at the event include a secure sub-sea cable linking Europe and south-east Asia, an industrial MRNA vaccine plant in Senegal, solar projects in Angola, a modular nuclear reactor plant in Romania and a port linking Christmas Island with the rest of the world. INITIATIVES GALORE However, up until now, little has been heard of ‘Build Back Better World’ since last year, while in January the EU launched its own infrastructure fund for developing countries, called the ‘Global Gateway’, aiming to mobilise €300billion ($53 billion) in investments between 2021 and 2027. Initially, EU declared that this fund would work alongside ‘Build Back Better World’, and not be a rival. The UK, outside the EU, launched its own infrastructure project called the ‘Clean Green Initiative’. There are reports that Japan is planning to raise $65bn over the same period for regional connectivity, though this fund/project has not been christened, yet. All these various funds, though uniquely targeted against China have just created confusion for the common man. Realising this Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor in his speech on 26 June, implicitly acknowledged the confusion, saying there were advantages if the G7 countries showcased their offers under a common roof. It is reported that Biden, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, met in November at Cop26 in Glasgow to evaluate their differing projects, and whether by duplicating their efforts they were weakening what they were offering to poor countries. However, it does not appear from the statements that the funds are being fully merged into one funding stream, but instead are being more closely coordinated. The Guardian quoted Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser and an important member of the project, saying at an event hosted by the Centre for a New American Security last week that the US-initiated partnership will cover global infrastructure, physical health and digital infrastructure and will provide “an alternative to what the Chinese are offering”. “We intend for this to be one of the hallmarks of the Biden administration foreign policy over the remainder of his tenure,” he said. On its part China has criticised the initiative as based on a “zero-sum game approach.” The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said the relevant initiative from the US side ignores the desire of all countries for common development and win-win cooperation. G-7: NEXT STEPS Though the avowed aim of the G7 Summit was to discuss, among other issues, the war in Ukraine and ways to stabilise energy markets and lessen dependence on Russian gas and oil, the announcements made seems very little, apart from moral support to Ukraine. The G7 leaders heard the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised him more arms, four of the G7 nations moved to ban imports of Russian gold from 26 June onwards to tighten the sanction squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine. However, metal analysts say this may not have a bearing on the international prices of gold, as they have held the same level since May last year. This follows reports that oil my move up again, and in this background the stalled Vienna talks might be resumed to ensure flow of Iranian oil in the market. INDIAN DIPLOMACY The common denominator at these two high-level summits was the presence of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This underlines the importance, which both China and the US attach to India currently.It is majorly due to its independent and realistic foreign policy, praised even by the Chinese foreign minister. India neither endorsed the Chinese president’s GPI nor has commented so far on Biden’s new initiative. It continues to pursue a completely independent international foreign and trade policy and due to its geo-political and economic importance, and its unwavering stand has endeared it to both the blocs, and both seem to be courting it seriously. Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi.

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KANHAIYA LAL’S BEHEADING HAS VERY WIDE AND WORRYING RAMIFICATIONS

Pankaj Vohra

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The gruesome and gory beheading of Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor by two Islamist fundamentalists in Udaipur has very wide, far reaching and worrying ramifications for the future of this country. While the National Investigation Agency probing the Terror act is yet to conclusively point towards the international dimensions of the incident, yet it is evident that the manner in which the tailor was beheaded, and the entire killing recorded on a cell phone, has similarities with the modus operandi of ISIS and some other banned organisations. The two suspects, who are already in the custody of the police would certainly provide greater clarity on the foreign angle though some reports suggest that the duo was indoctrinated by a Karachi based outfit. There are no words to express when one looks at the videos, posted on the social media justifying the slaying and simultaneously threatening the Prime Minister and former BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma of similar consequences. In this instance, the Rajasthan police too appears to have faltered since it did not take the apprehensions of the tailor seriously after he had been receiving threatening calls. The deceased was being accused of backing Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Prophet and thus had become a vulnerable target. Another reason, why he could have been singled out and attacked was because of his name. In the divisive politics that has come to stay in the country, certain vested interests including foreign powers are bound to take advantage of this growing distrust amongst communities. Nupur Sharma’s comments were condemned by most Islamic nations and New Delhi had to go on a diplomatic overdrive in order to keep things under check. Kanhaiya Lal, who did not even know how to operate a smart phone had to pay a very heavy price for what was perhaps not even his action. The BJP has made this into a major political issue while training its guns on the Rajasthan government, the Congress and the Gandhis. The main question being asked is why none of the Gandhis has so far not chosen to visit the family of the tailor to express their sympathy and support for them. The growing influence of ISIS and other outfits in this country would further widen the differences between various sections of society. Muslim clerics and scholars should not hesitate in condemning this most barbaric crime in order to lower the temperature which has been rising. The NIA must go into the depth of this incident and uncover all its dimensions. The culprits must be tried under the law after the probe is completed. They certainly need no sympathy. At the same time, right wing groups owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar or its ideology should show restraint. The RSS Chief has already stated that there should be no attempt to find a Shivling in every mosque, thereby implying that attempts to incite passions must be curbed. Kanhaiya Lal has suffered with his life and his family members shall have to face the repercussions of his death in order to sustain themselves economically. Spokespersons of political parties must be responsible and avoid making comments that can lead to such a ghastly incident. 

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G7 FOCUS ON CHINA A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR INDIA

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Even though the Ukraine invasion and sanctions on Russia dominated the deliberations at the G7 Summit in Germany, the leaders of the group of seven wealthiest nations of the world—the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan—focused on Beijing’s belligerence and human rights violations in China in what must have come as a shot in the arm for India.

That the G7 communique devoted quite a lot of space to China’s rights violations in Xinjiang and also to its strident claims over much of the South China Sea is a welcome move as far as New Delhi’s diplomatic campaign to garner global support against Beijing’s belligerence is concerned. The G7’s advice to China to respect fundamental freedoms is a clear message to Beijing that it should first see its own records on human rights violations before commenting on internal matters of other countries including India. In a stronger message to China, the world leaders stressed in the statement that the situation in Tibet, and in Xinjiang, where there is “forced labour”, “is of major concern to us”.

The G7 statement pledging to reduce “strategic dependencies” on China should be viewed as another setback to Beijing. It is an indication that the G-7 will toughen its stance against Beijing in days to come. With China looming large, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Germany that he was looking forward to fruitful discussions with world leaders on various topical issues implied how G7 was prepared to focus also on Beijing despite several engrossing issues such as Ukraine and global economy. A US official reportedly called the collective statement “unprecedented in the context of the G7” in acknowledging “the harms caused by China’s non-transparent, market distorting, industrial directives”. What the US official was referring to was the G7 leaders’ blistering attack on China while condemning its “non-transparent and market-distorting” international trade practices. Beijing’s increasingly strident claims over much of the South China Sea has also sparked alarm among the G7 countries over its military ambitions. What is believed is that China’s assertiveness in other geographies might have figured during PM Modi’s bilateral talks with various world leaders on the sidelines of the G7 Summit at Munich.

All the leaders voiced concern about human rights violations in China. They urged Beijing to respect fundamental freedoms. All this suggests that the global community, particularly the seven powerful countries, are keeping a close eye on all the developments in China. What is also suggested is that China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is also on the radar of the global community.

The G7’s project ‘Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment’ (PGII), a joint initiative to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries, is already being seen as the bloc’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pushing its debt-trap diplomacy across various economically weak nations, Beijing is said to be alarmed over the G7’s initiative to counter its BRI projects. Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Mohan Kwatra may have given a relatively lukewarm reception after the unveiling of this ambitious project by the G7, but New Delhi will be ready to be part of it after “examination of the details”.

India’s importance in the G7’s strategy to deal with China’s challenges in the Indo-Pacific is known to all the seven countries. Moreover, India is already working with two of the G7 nations—the US and Japan—in the Quad on the Indo-Pacific challenges. Its coordination with the remaining five countries is also quite smooth. As a result of all the equations and coordination, India is likely to be considered to be made a new addition to G-7. The Modi government is perhaps giving momentum to the diplomatic campaign to get into this elite group.

Undoubtedly, the United States has long cast a wary eye at China over its trade practices. The Biden administration also believes that China’s trade practices are designed to accord an unfair and undue advantage to Chinese companies over foreign firms. The G7 leaders have, therefore, signaled that they would seek to “extricate themselves from economic dependence” on China in what will be yet another jolt to it. So, the G7’s opinion about China that came up at the Summit in Germany is a breather for India.

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Inflation Drives Online Business Down

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Inflation rates are on the rise this week, and we are seeing repercussions from that across multiple online industries. Many companies are preparing to tighten their belt as consumers are spending less and driving down values for online products.

Crypto Industry Takes a Blow

One of the most notable ways we have seen the rising inflation rates affect online business and products is in the cryptocurrency industry. Inflation has hit major crypto tokens very hard, spurring a bearish trend, or falling rates, almost across the board. Major cryptocurrency coins, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana, are all down today, some as high as 9%, which is really astounding. This could signal the start of a market crash for the industry, which is coming on the heels of a recent crash that  sent the rates hurtling downward beyond where some of them have been in years.If the prices fall farther and stay down without any serious attempt at recovery, we could be seeing a new market low that would be tough to bounce back from. Many investors are already pulling out of the industry, selling off their crypto tokens or moving their tokens over to stablecoins that don’t see much in the way of price fluctuation.

There is a shift happening in the crypto industry, and it is due partly to inflation. If the economy doesn’t start to recover, some of those cryptos may never get back to where they were at the start of the year. What’s astounding is that this was the year that some analysts said Bitcoin would reach unprecedented heights, but those analysts failed to account for the possibility of rising inflation and what it would do to the industry.

Online Spending Is Down

We are also seeing many consumers buying less online, which is hurting retailers across the board. Just take a look at the gaming industry, which saw a shift toward older games all year long. The top played games of the year were almost all games from several years ago, including releases like Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket League, and Grand Theft Auto V. Major new releases this year like Elden Ring are barely cracking the top 20 played games.

That’s a big deal in an industry that is always chasing the new thing, and game developers and publishers cannot sustain themselves on the scraps they get from players who are not as interested in buying new games and playing them continuously. The current gaming business model require players to stay online and keep buying upgrades, loot chests, downloadable content, and other digital items that help hugely expensive games recoup their budgets.

There has been a migration of gamers to free games or at least free-to-play games, and the online gambling and casino industry has benefited from that. This is why สล็อตเว็บตรง have proven to be very popular lately, as well as other online casino games and free multiplayer offerings. Some of the most played games on Steam right now are free-to-play games like Counterstrike: GO and other similar titles. Gamers are spending less money on games but spending more time playing, and the gaming industry is trying to figure to what to do abut that. We may see games operate on smaller budgets in the near future as a way to handle the rising costs of development and the more frugal spending of gamers.Online retailers are having a difficult time with the inflation as well, as their costs have increased but consumer spending has decreased in most areas of online retail. The major retailers will likely be fine, but it is the little guys that will suffer and potentially have to go out of business. That is, unless they adapt to the changing consumer spending habits and find new ways to open up revenue streams and entice customers.

As inflation increases with no end in sight, we could be entering another recession soon. It is too early to call it yet, but that’s where things look to be headed unless major world governments issue stopgap measures to keep inflation from getting too out of hand. Until then, expect the online industries to keep trying to adapt.

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Tracing ‘kingmaker’ Fadnavis’ evolution to a towering stature

Post November 2019, political pundits had written off Devendra Fadnavis. While he had won the election, he lost power in a game of political chess. After Uddhav Thackeray quit as CM ahead of a floor test, Fadnavis has sprung a surprise, announcing that rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde will be the next CM of Maharashtra.

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In politics, there are comebacks and there are stunning comebacks. Every stunning comeback is built on hard work, and results in creating leaders with towering stature. Maharashtra has witnessed one such stunning comeback.

Post November 2019, most political pundits had written Devendra Fadnavis off. While he had won the election and people’s verdict, he had lost power in a game of political chess. The short-lived saga with Ajit Pawar, too, had not ended well. In the next few months, it looked all gloom and doom as the Uddhav Thackeray government strengthened itself. But, the real story was unfolding in the background. Fadnavis had learnt from the events very quickly. He was now ready to don the mantle of an opposition leader. As anti-CAA and pro-CAA rallies took part in Mumbai, Fadnavis made a fiery speech at Gowalia Tank. While supporting the CAA, he made a speech which was high on Hindutva and energized both the party and supporters. The year 2020 started with the Covid-19 crisis. Like all other parts of society, politics, too, was changing. In the initial weeks of the Covid-19 crisis in Maharashtra, the PR driven actions of the MVA government were creating an illusion of control. But Fadnavis soon sensed the reality behind the illusion. He quickly hit the ground. Under his leadership, the BJP cadre involved itself in relief and support of Covid-19 affected masses. Fadnavis personally got involved in distribution of ration, PPE kits, medical supplies and opening up of new Covid centres across the state.

The stark contrast of the CM sitting at home while Fadnavis was travelling across the state to help the people was much evident. This also helped in energizing the BJP rank and file across the state. Apart from Covid, Maharashtra saw many other crisis, including twin cyclones on the western coast and floods in many districts. Fadnavis was always among the first to reach affected areas. At times, he was ensuring help for the people which ideally was the CM’s responsibility.

Slowly, as the sheen of aura around the MVA was wearing off, Fadnavis was raising issues which affected the common man. Be it farmer distress or problems of workers or plight of students or problems faced by small traders during Covid or women’s safety, Fadnavis used the first Assembly session (after the Covid crisis started) to corner the government and seek accountability. People’s problems had found a powerful voice in the form of Fadnavis.

A turning point in this period was when Fadnavis exposed the MVA during Antilla bomb scare incident. The intelligent lawyer in him with an eye for detail exposed the murky dealings of the MVA, which resulted in resignation and arrest of then Home minister Anil Deshmukh. A key observation was that while he was no more the CM, he still had the respect amongst the IAS & IPS lobby and the government departments.

Fadnavis was attacking and exposing the MVA on the ground as well as in the Assembly. A common joke in Maharashtra was that whenever the Assembly session is convened, Covid cases rise because the MVA government wanted to avoid or curtail the Assembly sessions due to the fear of Fadnavis. For the common people in the state, they had not seen their CM moving out of his house, but they had seen Fadnavis travel to each and every corner of the state. In the last few months, the people of Maharashtra have discovered the brilliant oratory of Fadnavis. While he has always been a good orator, now, his oratory had reached greater heights. He could easily bundle development and Hindutva while exposing Uddhav Thackeray’s failure on both fronts.

Fadnavis had shown his electoral capabilities twice in Maharashtra (2014 & 2019) and later in Bihar (2020) and Goa (2022). But there was still one area where he had to prove he was the best. This was the area of political management in which Sharad Pawar has been acclaimed for too long. Fadnavis got his chance during the June 2021 Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad elections. During the Rajya Sabha, he not only ensured victory for the third BJP candidate, but also ensured BJP got 17 first preference votes additional to BJP seats. The game of arithmetic that he played was brilliant enough to checkmate even Sharad Pawar. During the Vidhan Parishad elections, he ensured that BJP’s fifth candidate also won and this time, the additional number of first preference votes rose to 28. In two elections, within a span of 10 days, Fadnavis had not only outwitted Sharad Pawar twice, but also widened the cracks within the MVA.

Uddhav Thackeray resigned as CM ahead of a floor test on Wednesday and, springing a surprise, Fadnavis on Thursday announced that rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde will be the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Fadnavis’ announcement defied expectations that he would return as Chief Minister with the support of the Shinde faction.

However, Fadnavis’ journey from “one amongst equals” to “the tallest leader in the state” has reached a historical stage. Very rarely in Maharashtra politics have we seen a leader who combines administrative skills with oratory, political acumen, grassroot connect and a clean image. Another aspect which differentiates Devendra Fadnavis is his acceptance across all regions of Maharashtra and among all communities. He is the only pan Maharashtra leader since late Yashwant Rao Chavan.

The author is the in-charge of Social Media Cell, BJP Maharashtra, and member of the State Executive.

Though Fadnavis has announced that Eknath Shinde will be the next CM, Fadnavis’ journey from ‘one amongst equals’ to ‘the tallest leader in the state’ has reached a historical stage. Very rarely in Maharashtra politics have we seen a leader who combines administrative skills with oratory, political acumen, grassroot connect and a clean image. Another aspect which differentiates Devendra Fadnavis is his acceptance across all regions of Maharashtra and among all communities. He is the only pan Maharashtra leader since late Yashwant Rao Chavan.

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PARTIES NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS AND RESPONSIBLE WHILE DOING POLITICS

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Udaipur

The incident of brutal beheading in Udaipur has tremendously dented the image of Rajasthan which has, hitherto, been known for communal harmony and peace. No words are enough to condemn this gruesome murder which is never allowed in a democratic country and civilized society. This type of macabre killing has been seen only in countries under dictatorships. This incident is the first of its kind that happened in India. The killers were so fearless that they posted the video of beheading on internet for terrorizing the society. There must not be any repetition of such a brutal act. All the political parties and the governments here should sit together and hammer out a solution to prevent it.

Now the question arises as to who is responsible for this. In a way, all the political parties are responsible for this. The role of TRP race of the news channels and social media cannot also be ruled out. Under pressure to top the list in terms of viewership, news channels tend to go to any extent for the TRP. Soon after being launched, some of the channels ran shows on concocted stories of magic and witchcraft. Once a channel showed a vehicle without a driver. The reality was that the driver was hiding somewhere in the car. This was followed by various debate shows where heated exchanges were the order of the day. One cannot forget how a story about an imaginative chip in Rs 2,000 note was run on some TV channels after demonetization. Some sponsored debates were conducted with an objective to please the government. Gradually, media channels started airing the views that fueled negativity in the atmosphere. The channels were seen vying with each other to ramp up viewership during the Gyanwapi issue. Amid all the charged atmosphere in media channels, Nupur Sharma said something that should have been avoided. It triggered massive debate on social media. And the result is for all of us to see.

It could have been prevented. But only if the governments and political parties had shown political will. Only one party cannot be blamed for this. Congress and other parties are as much responsible as the BJP. Whatever be the explanation, the Congress and other political outfits are indulging in Muslim appeasement. All the parties divided majority community into different castes and did politics of Muslim appeasement for five decades. Barring BJP, all the parties such as Congress, SP, RJD, the Left parties, etc. are still not ready to do any course correction. Akhilesh Yadav is still practicing Muslim-Yadav centric politics in UP. Similarly, the Congress government in Rajasthan is on the same old track. Events like Roza Iftar are organized and statements aimed at appeasing minorities come from Congress. This results in the majority taking a different view on the same.

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot needs to realise that the politics is changing now in the country. Congress and CM need to understand that the minority in Rajasthan will vote for Congress because it has no other option. Minorities go for the parties which can defeat BJP. So, the government should not do anything that could anger the majority which the BJP takes advantage of. The majority has been targeted in Rajasthan wherever communal violence has happened. The BJP will be more aggressive and the government will be questioned in days to come. If we look at UP, the Congress and other parties target CM Yogi Adityanath’s working style. But it hardly makes any difference to him as the people of UP are happy with his government. Everything is under control in UP, the state which was earlier known for riots.

There should be fear among criminals in Rajasthan. Amid speculation about foreign hands in the Udaipur incident, the Rajasthan government is answerable over its intelligence efficiency. Why did the police not have prior information on violence? Gehlot needs to realise that the violence and crimes can overshadow his pro-people decisions.

At the same time, Congress has been continuing to target PM Modi since 2004. Congress’ focus is not on strengthening organisation due to which debacles are being faced by it. It is hardly any significant force in opposition, which is not good in a democracy. BJP is benefiting from Congress’ wrong decisions. Congress’ appeasement politics is suiting BJP in its politics to woo majority. Undoubtedly, the saffron party gets benefited by any polarizing incident.

But BJP also needs to understand that excess of anything is not good. Polarisation cannot benefit it beyond a limit. Electoral benefits may come to it but it could corrode the social and communal fabric of the country. Our country is known for unity in diversity. Unity cannot be destroyed just by a couple of elements only. However, the political parties need to have patience and self-control during testing times.

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