Narendra Modi woos farmers ahead of Karnataka elections

Davangere (Karnataka): Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued with his party’s efforts to woo the state’s over 7 million farmers ahead of Karnataka elections, listing recently launched government agricultural initiatives at a farmers’ rally on Tuesday.

“If you want to change the fortunes of Bharat, then farmers’ fortunes must change,” he told a farmers rally in Davangere, about 260km from Bengaluru, organized to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) chief ministerial candidate B.S.Yeddyurappa.

Modi cited increased minimum support prices (MSPs), efforts to double farmers’ incomes by 2022 and crop insurance in defence of his government’s record on agriculture.

The BJP, at the receiving end of farmer fury in the state, and has been trying to reach out to the community and win back their trust.

The event on Tuesday was titled “Raitha Bandhu Yeddyurappa” rally (farmer-friendly Yeddyurappa rally) to portray the chief ministerial candidate as a saviour of farmers in the state who are yet to recover from recent droughts, and a fall in agricultural activity and productivity.

The party has showcased Yeddyurappa as the first chief minister to present a separate agriculture budget in 2011.

Heading into elections, national leaders of both the BJP and Congress have increased their frequency to poll-bound Karnataka, trying to mobilize support ahead of elections due this year. Congress president Rahul Gandhi ended a three-day tour of Mumbai-Karnataka on Monday while his BJP counterpart Amit Shah spent as many days in Hyderabad-Karnataka.

The BJP has claimed that over 3,500 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka since 2013.

As part of BJP’s “Musti Dhaanya Abhiyaan” (fistful of rice campaign), workers from the party will go door-to-door, collecting grains, and take a pledge to work for farmer welfare. The party will use the grains to make prasadham (offering to devotees) and distribute it at gram sabhas that will be conducted across the state, the BJP said in statement post the rally on Tuesday.

Modi sported a green stohl, a symbol associated with farmer activism in Karnataka.

Yeddyurappa and the BJP, who enjoy the support of the Lingayats—believed to be the single largest community in the state—are now looking at consolidating other sections of society including farmers, women and backward classes to try and repeat its 2008 poll performance when it won 110 of the 224 assembly seats in Karnataka.

However, the party lost badly in 2013, winning only 40 seats after multiple corruption allegations surfaced, including a multi-billion dollar illegal mining scam and Yeddyurappa parted ways with the BJP. Yeddyurappa had split from the BJP and contested on a Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) ticket which, in total won six seats in 2013.

Yeddyurappa rejoined the BJP in 2013 and was named its chief ministerial candidate in 2016 despite resistance from within the party and some of its senior leaders, that continues to this day. Modi attending Yeddyurappa’s birthday was seen as symbolising an end to any internal rebellion.

The BJP has been trying to target the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government over issues like corruption and breakdown of law and order in by highlighting the achievements of the Modi government at the centre.

“Its called Siddaramaiah government but in reality its ‘Seedha Ruppaya’ (cash upfront) government,” Modi said on Tuesday. Modi had earlier used the expression “10% commission government” to describe Siddaramaiah’s government, implying that approvals were given only after bribes were paid. Modi held the Gandhi family responsible for ruining farming in the country. Modi also said thousands of crores of rupees given by the central government remains unused by Siddaramaiah.livemint