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Bhavantar Scheme is BJP’s Poll Plank in Madhya Pradesh

According to state government officials, more than Rs 880 crore has been disbursed to 6.35 lakh farmers under the Bhavantar scheme.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 09, 2018, 08.39 AM IST
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Bhavantar Scheme is BJP’s Poll Plank in Madhya Pradesh
State’s BJP leaders deny anti-incumbency sentiment against CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan or any farm distress.
BHOPAL: The BJP is hoping to retain power in Madhya Pradesh following the assembly polls this year thanks to the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana and a possible projection of Jyotiraditya Scindia as a chief ministerial candidate by the Congress which it believes would backfire on the opposition party.

About half-dozen senior BJP leaders ET spoke to said there is no anti-incumbency sentiment against Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been chief minister since November 2005, or farm distress in the state where the party has been in power without a break for the past 14 years. Moreover, they said, a faction-ridden Congress would contribute to its own defeat in the assembly polls.

“If Congress commits the big mistake of projecting Scindia as its CM face, the writing will be on the wall – of a massive BJP win,” said Prabhat Jha, a national vice president of the BJP and a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh.

If the Congress were to project Scindia as a CM candidate the BJP would be quick to pitch it as “a contest between a page 3 maharaja and a simpleton mama or uncle (Chouhan)”, said another BJP leader. “Scindia as the CM face of the Congress will in fact help the BJP and our campaign,” said the leader, who did not wish to be identified.

The showpiece project in the BJP’s election campaign will be Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, said the BJP’s state president Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan.

Under the price deficiency payment scheme, announced for eight kharif crops last year and extended to four rabi crops on Tuesday, the government does not procure the produce from farmers but pays the difference if the produce gets sold below the minimum support price. According to state government officials, more than Rs 880 crore has been disbursed to 6.35 lakh farmers under the scheme.

“Nobody can take care of farmers like Chouhan as he has grown up in poverty and not in a palace,” said Union rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who represents Gwalior in the Lok Sabha.

Banking on Bhavantar Bhugtan
Two lakh farmers are expected to converge in Bhopal’s Jamuri Maidan on February 12 as the government begins to register farmers under the scheme for rabi crops in the third phase of the scheme. At the BJP office in Bhopal, party leaders were busy messaging their entire network of district heads to mobilise maximum number of farmers for the programme which will be addressed by the chief minister.

“Can you imagine the feeling of elation in a farmer when he gets Rs 50,000 or Rs 1 lakh directly credited into his bank account? I dare the Congress to protest against Bhavantar in the streets or say in their manifesto that they will scrap Bhavantar if they win – they know it will boomerang,” said BJP’s state spokesman, Rajneesh Agrawal.

The party’s state general secretary, VD Sharma, said the scheme is a game changer and that many states had sent teams to MP to study it as it is tackling farmer distress effectively. The party aims to ensure Bhavantar benefit of almost Rs 2,000 crore to at least 16 lakh farmers before the assembly polls, besides the Chouhan government’s ongoing scheme of zero-interest farm loans. “After Rs 880 crore so far, a big amount of money will be transferred to bank accounts of farmers on February 12,” said Nand Kumar Chauhan.

CM Face Debate
Jha said the Congress in MP is a party of six leaders and that if Scindia is projected as CM face, it would mean the “self-professed pro-poor party has gone into the shelter of the palace” and would suffer damage. “Out of four parliamentary seats in Gwalior division, Scindia holds his family seat of Guna while we hold the other three. How can a leader who cannot make the party win in his bastion’s neighbourhood make the Congress win in the entire state? Scindia is not a mass leader and stands in complete contrast to our CM who is a popular and simpleton leader,” he said.

Agrawal said while Scindia has made his ambition rather public, Congress state president Arun Yadav, who belong to the Other Backward Classes, has gone public to say the Congress always fights under collective leadership. “Kamal Nath’s so-called public backing for Scindia’s candidature was at a condolence meeting in Scindia’s constituency. What did you expect Nath to say in such a situation? Digvijay Singh, to whom many Congress MLAs owe allegiance, is on a yatra and silent,” he said.

The BJP is not discounting Singh in its poll strategy. “Rahul Gandhi is going to temples and Singh is on a 3,000-km long Narmada yatra. There may be some understanding cooking there though Singh’s public image is poor,” Agrawal said.

Jha said besides Rajya Sabha member Satyavrat Chaturvedi, no one in the state Congress backed Scindia. Former CM Arjun Singh’s son, Ajay Singh, is the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, and is said to have ambitions too after he ensured the party a win in the Chitrakoot bypoll last year.

The BJP is relishing this scenario given no confusion in its ranks on its leader in the state. “Gaon, gharib aur kisan ka neta, har pagdandi ko janne wala (A leader of villagers, the poor and farmers, one who knows every sidewalk in the state) – Shivraj Chouhan,” said Tomar, who is a big backer of the CM.

Target 200
The BJP, which holds 165 seats in the 230-member assembly, is targeting more than 200 seats in the upcoming polls. “There are 200 seats where the BJP has won at least once in the past. We have identified only about two dozen seats which are extremely tough for us to win due to the influence of state congress leaders,” Agrawal said.

From February 11, BJP’s vistaraks or outreach workers will go to all 68,000 election booths in the state to spend seven days there for the party’s ‘Har ghar, Bhajpa (In every home, BJP)’ campaign and co-opt beneficiaries in every booth of central schemes like Ujjwala and PM Awas and state schemes such as Ladli Laxmi Yojana and CM Medhavi Student Yojana, said VD Sharma.

The party dismissed talk of anti-incumbency, a factor that is said to have reduced the BJP’s margin of victory in Gujarat. “We increased our seats in Madhya Pradesh from 143 in 2008 to 165 in 2013. The trend will stay,” said Sharma.
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