With 'fistful' of rice, Nadda seeks to conquer Bengal as Modi govt battles farm protest

·5-min read

By Pradipta Tapadar (Eds: Recasts intro, corrects name of district in para 3) Katwa (WB), Jan 9 (PTI) With the Modi government locked in a 'who blinks first' with farmers at Delhi's borders, BJP chief J P Nadda Saturday reached out to tillers in faraway Bengal with the promise of 'justice', as he sought a 'fistful' of rice from them in solidarity and hope of a bumper harvest in the assembly polls.

A month after his convoy was attacked by alleged ruling TMC henchmen, Nadda was back in battleground West Bengal, unleashing a charm offensive to woo the state's vast farming community, and targeting the Mamata Banerjee government over alleged injustice to them.

Nadda launched the 'Krishak Suraksha Abhiyan' and 'Ek Mutthi Chawal' campaigns of the BJP in West Bengal's Bardhaman, the state's rice bowl, asserting the Narendra Modi government did more than the previous governments for the benefit of the farmers.

He also excoriated TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, one of the foremost political voices against the three farm laws that brought agriculturists, primarily from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, to the borders of the national capital, over the delay in introducing the PM Kisan scheme for farmers in her own state.

'The ground has already slipped from under your feet.

It's too late for you,' he said, castigating Banerjee, who recently indicated she was willing to implement the Centre's PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.

Nadda claimed nearly 71.23 lakh farming families were bereft of the benefits of the scheme, including 96 per cent small and marginal farmers, because of her 'stubbornness'.

The BJP president's visit was loaded with symbolism as he went around Jagadanandapur village collecting fistful of rice from the homes of farmers and having a frugal lunch at the home of Mathura Mondal, a humble tiller.

While he sought to display the BJP's soft side to the farming community in north India, particularly Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Nadda's day-long interaction with ordinary people was also meant to rubbish Banerjee's claim of his party being an 'outsider' in Bengal politics.

Notwithstanding the memories of December 10 attack on his convoy in Diamond Harbour, the parliamentary constituency of Banerjee's nephew Abhishek, Nadda was seen greeting people with warm handshakes and a smile.

He was, however, unsparing in his criticism of Banerjee, accusing her of presiding over a government that didn't spare even poor people in distress.

'TMC stands for cut money (commission), chaal chor (the gang of thieves who steal rice), and tripal(tarpaulin) chor,' he said, apparently referring to alleged extortion and misappropriation of relief material by loal TMC leaders following cyclone Amphan that ravaged the state in 2020.

'The Modi government gave rations to the poor during the pandemic. The foodgrains that should have been at ration shops were found in the godowns of TMC leaders,' Nadda alleged.

Nadda, whose convoy had been attacked by alleged TMC supporters last month, used a helicopter to reach the village from Qazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Burdwan's Andal facility.

He asserted that the provisions in the Union budget for agriculture and benefits for farmers have been raised manifold under the Narendra Modi government.

'Since coming to power, the Modi government has increased the budgetary provisions for agriculture by six times. In 2013-14, the budget for agriculture was only Rs 22,000 crore. Today, it stands at Rs 1,34,000 crore,' Nadda said.

Nadda claimed the Modi government implemented the Swaminathan Committee recommendations on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, raising them nearly 1.5 times over the input cost.

Having collected 'fistful' of rice from a few homes in saffron cloth bags, Nadda said BJP workers will fan out across 40,000 gram sabhas in the state as part of the exercise where they will pledge to fight for the cause of farmers.

'This is just the beginning.....over 74 lakh farming families have been deprived of the benefits of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme,' he said, adding the Mamata Banerjee government agreed to implement it only because of the 'anger' in the farming community.

'The Mamata Banerjee government agreed to implement the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi after such a long time as she realised that the TMC is fast losing ground in Bengal. But, let me say it clearly, it is already too late for the TMC government.' Under constant criticism from the Centre, the TMC government had recently indicated its willingness to implement the PM Kisan scheme, and sought a list of over 20 lakh farmers from the state who had registered themselves to be a part of that. The scheme provides for Rs 6,000 to every farmer as income support each year in three equal inslallments.

Later, addressing a press conference, Nadda trashed the TMC's allegation that the saffron party was tyrying to destroy the 'Bengali culture', and hit back at the state's ruling party, claiming it symbolised 'anarchy and corruption'.

He alleged the TMC was working with 'criminal instinct' and had 'institutionalised corruption'.

'The TMC never represented the true Bengali culture.

It represents anarchy, corruption and extortion. The BJP and Syama Prasad Mookherjee represented the true Bengali culture.

'We have lived the rich Bengali culture.....which is what Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow,' Nadda said.