Farmers’ Concerns Take Center Stage in Madhya Pradesh’s Political Battle

Farmers’ Concerns Take Center Stage in Madhya Pradesh’s Political Battle

Farmers’ concerns are at the forefront of the political battle in Madhya Pradesh, which is gearing up for its upcoming Assembly election. The picturesque village of Chhapri, located about 70 kilometers south of Bhopal, is witnessing these concerns firsthand, with damaged soybean crops and inadequate compensation being major issues. Despite the much-publicized Prime Minister’s crop insurance scheme, farmers are dissatisfied.

In a state where 70 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and related activities, both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress are focusing their campaigns on economic relief, agricultural issues, and varying degrees of Hindutva, expressed in the divisive language of cow-belt politics. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan recently made a controversial statement, suggesting that if the Congress were to come to power, Hindu women might face restrictions on wearing traditional symbols like bindi and bangles.

In the scorching fields of Chhapri, Rajesh Jaat examines damaged soybean pods, revealing the devastation caused by a drought in August. He explains that farmers receive compensation of around Rs. 1,200 per acre for damaged crops, even though the provision allows for Rs. 32,000 per hectare. Patiram Bhalla, another farmer, criticizes the government’s minimum support prices as inadequate, and Mukesh Kangal complains about delayed government procurement, which forces many farmers to sell their produce at low prices to private buyers.

The Congress, which narrowly won the 2018 election, is once again capitalizing on farmer discontent. Kamal Nath, the party’s leader in the state, has proposed an ambitious “Krishak Nyay Yojana,” which promises free electricity for agricultural pumps up to 5 horsepower, the resolution of unjustified police cases against protesting farmers, power consumption discounts for agriculture, and continued loan waivers. Kamal Nath accuses Chouhan’s government of being “anti-farmer” and highlights the high number of farmer suicides during BJP rule.

The Congress also questions the government’s failure to present the Jain Commission report on the Mandsaur violence in the Assembly. In 2017, five farmers were killed during a protest demanding fair crop prices, which became a pivotal moment in the Congress’s resurgence in 2018.

However, the political landscape changed when Jyotiraditya Scindia defected to the BJP in 2020, bringing Chouhan back to power. Despite his long tenure as Chief Minister, Chouhan faces challenges due to public fatigue with his leadership. The BJP is cautious not to highlight him as the chief ministerial candidate, focusing its campaign on Prime Minister Narendra Modi instead.

Chouhan has embraced a more hardline Hindu image in recent years, emphasizing majoritarian politics and crackdowns, particularly against Muslims. His government gained notoriety for demolishing the home of Wasim Ahmed, a disabled man, in Khargone in April 2022. Chouhan is attempting to rally Hindu sentiment against the Congress amid debates about Sanatana Dharma, but voters claim their decisions will not be swayed by ideological disputes.