Chhattisgarh Assembly Polls 2023: Paddy remains key plank in India’s rice bowl

Often called the “rice of bowl” of India, Chhattisgarh is witnessing a battle between Congress and BJP with paddy as one of the main poll planks in the upcoming assembly elections.

The state offers the highest prices to its farmers for paddy. For the 2022-23 crop, the farmers were paid Rs 2,640 per quintal for common and Rs 2,660 for grade ‘A’ paddy. This included the Centre’s MSP of Rs 2,040-2,060 and the state government’s bonus of Rs 600. According to The Indian Express, in the last marketing year, 10.75 mt of paddy was purchased from 23.4 lakh farmers, translating into almost Rs 28,500 crore payments.

Recently during his trip to the poll-bound state, Congress leader Rahul was seen working in a paddy field in a village close to Raipur.  “If farmers are happy then India is happy! Five best works of Congress government for the farmers in Chhattisgarh, which made them the happiest in India. MSP on paddy Rs 2,640/quintal, input subsidy of Rs 23,000 crore to 26 lakh farmers, Loan worth Rs 10,000 crore of 19 lakh farmers waived, electricity bills half, Rs 7,000/year to 5 lakh agricultural labourers. A model that we will replicate across India,” Gandhi said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Bhupesh Baghel-led Chhattisgarh government has already promised to hike the paddy purchase price to Rs 3,600 per quintal if the party comes back to power in the state. Already, every year, the state government pays all farmers Rs 9,000 per acre as subsidy including those who do not cultivate paddy. According to Deccan Chronicle, the state government procures paddy from around 26 lakh farmers during the Kharif season.

Meanwhile, the BJP is keeping a tab on the alleged multi-crore paddy procurement scam being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The scam allegedly involves government officers, rice millers and senior politicians.

The BJP was ousted in the 2018 assembly elections after ruling the state for 15 years. The Congress won after bagging 68 seats. The Congress poll promise of an increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy from Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,500 was said to be a game changer for the party in the 2018 assembly elections. BJP has always maintained that the Centre procures paddy from the state and the Congress is just taking credit for it. According to Congress, it is the state government’s Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojana that gives input subsidies to farmers for growing paddy and it benefited rice farmers.

According to News18, paddy farming and the related farmers’ issues will be the deciding factor in at least 63 of the total 90 assembly seats in the state.  BJP’s state President Arun Sao told News18 that the Congress is only “indulging in corruption” through such schemes. “Why do they need to waive farm loans if they successfully improved the lives of the farmers? Why does a financially able farmer need to take a farm loan and not be able to repay that? Last election, Congress announced a farm loan waiver of Rs 10,000 crore and this year, they doubled the amount. It is a bad precedent, and it becomes a cycle.”

Elections to the 90-member state assembly will be held in two phases on November 7 and 17.

This article has been republished from The Moneycontrol

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