Announcements of farm loan waivers could prove a political masterstroke by the Congress in the current context. BJP will need a well thought out communication strategy to counter it.
The newly elected governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced farm loan waivers within hours of swearing in on Monday. On Tuesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi lauded the decisions taken by the governments and severely criticised the Prime Minister for not listening to the demands of farmers. He also promised to not let the PM sleep until he announced farm loan waivers across the country.
Soon enough, the BJP governments of Gujarat and Assam announced loan waivers for rural areas as well. The government in Gujarat will waive off electricity bills of connection holders in rural areas amounting to Rs 650 crore, which could benefit 6.22 lakh households. In Assam, the state government has approved a Rs 600 crore farm loan waiver to benefit around 8 lakh farmers in the state. Following these announcements, Rahul Gandhi proclaimed on Twitter, “The Congress party has managed to wake the CM’s of Assam & Gujarat from their deep slumber.
PM is still asleep. We will wake him up too.” DKODING this ‘competitive populism’ in economic terms isn’t too hard. Farm loan waivers severely hurt the exchequer, have increased the fiscal deficit of states and are certainly not long term solutions for farmer issues. But in poll season, the move by the Congress could prove to be a political masterstroke, especially with widespread farmer unrest across the country. It is a tried and tested ploy as well, playing a major role in the UPA’s electoral victory in 2009. By taking the initiative, Rahul Gandhi has put the PM in a tight spot for sure. If the NDA refuses to announce farm loan waivers nationally it will be dubbed as anti-farmer.
And if it does, Modi could be seen as following Rahul Gandhi’s lead. Clearly the BJP will need a smart communication strategy along with alternative ways to placate farmers. It will be interesting to see what Modi ultimately comes up with.
The Congress party has managed to wake the CM’s of Assam & Gujarat from their deep slumber.
PM is still asleep. We will wake him up too.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 19, 2018