Rs 50,000 crore farm loan is key election agenda for Congress, JD(S) and BJP in Karnataka

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Compelled to react to the burning issue of farmers' protests across the country and the rush to please the farming community, political parties have their eyes set on farm loans. The Congress, BJP as well as the JD(S) are attempting to make an agenda out of Rs 50,000 crore farm loan in election-bound Karnataka. With the government undecided on loan waiver, parties are in a race to gain the most out of farmers hit by consecutive droughts.

Rs 50,000 crore farm loan is key election agenda for Congress, JD(S) and BJP in Karnataka

State BJP demands waiver, centre shirks responsibility

The Congress in Karnataka is under severe pressure to waive off the massive Rs 50,000 crore farm loans. With Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh government announcing huge waiver schemes, Karnataka continues to be undecided. Seizing the opportunity, the BJP has accused Siddaramiah government of being anti-farmer.

State President of the BJP, B S Yeddyurappa has announced that he would sit on a satyagraha demanding loan waiver. Fully aware that 80 percent of the Rs 50,000 crore farm loan is from nationalised bank, B S Yeddyurappa continues to attack Congress government in the state without urging BJP government in the Centre to waive off farmers' loans.

Appeasement or financial burden is Congress' dilemma

Caught between appeasement and financial burden, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who also handles the finance portfolio, is undecided on loan waiver. However, it is learnt that senior leadership of the Congress party has urged Siddaramaiah to waive off farmers loans. Keeping the 2018 elections in mind, the Congress wants to project itself as a farmer-friendly party. It has become essential at a time when farmers are protesting against BJP government in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. Party vice president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Bengaluru is said to have asked the Chief Minister to ease the burden on farmers.

For a man who has presented a record number of budgets in the state, Siddaramaiah, sources claim, is not keen on waiving the Rs 50,000 crore farm loans. Siddaramaiah and many ministers in his cabinet are reluctant to waive the loans on the grounds that it discourages repayment by farmers and benefits defaulters. Added burden on the state government is another concern. CM Siddaramaiah has so far written multiple times to the Centre asking it to waive loans from nationalised bank. He has also told the media that he would waive loans of cooperative and state-run banks if the centre waived off loans from nationalised banks. Neither has happened so far. The BJP at the centre clearly wants the Rs 50,000 crore farm loan to remain an issue to politicise about for the 2018 elections. But with elections around the corner, the Congress is compelled to appease the farming community.

JD(S) plays the farmers' party card

JD(S) is currently not a stakeholder in the decision to waive farm loans. Taking advantage of the party's agrarian roots and leaders from the farming community, H D Devegowda's party is projecting itself as the lone fighter of farmer causes. While H D Kumaraswamy is attacking the state government for refusing to waive off farm loans, H D Devegowda has chosen to attack the centre. Absolving state government's responsibility from the matter, the former Prime Minister has urged the Centre to waive off loans. JD(S) has promised to waive off farm loans if voted to power.

With less than a year for the assembly elections in Karnataka, the Rs 50,000 crore farm loan is emerging as an agenda with the highest priority for all three parties.

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