The Mandsaur agitation last year was the epicentre of farmers’ protests across Madhya Pradesh. The farmers' protest over low prices for their produce, milk prices, land rights and burgeoning loans made headlines. The subsequent violence and police firing that killed six protesting farmers made the governments both in the centre and the state to take necessary steps to pacify the farmers.
The state machinery and the centre, both run by the same political party, had to get on its feet to announce sops and device new pricing mechanism.
Did things change? The anger is still palpable on the ground. Despite assurances and promise of increased minimum support price (MSP), crop prices have been subdued. Milk prices have not gone up over Rs 20 a litre.
The state’s famous Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana that promises to pay farmers the deficit against MSP has made strides but has limited reach.
Though farmers are still upset, they are not angry with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan but with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Farmers also complained about the limited benefits that Bhaavantar offers. It is not an overarching scheme and is limited to the crop or crops of the season and requires a pre-online registration to be eligible. But farmers still feel the incumbent chief minister has made efforts to improve the conditions of the farmers in the state. It is the policies of the central government that they are unhappy with.
Most farmers from Indore, Mhow, Mandsaur, Ujjain and Sehore raised questions on the export-import policy of the central government.
Large agri landscape in MP gives the farmers an opportunity to cultivate a host of crops such as wheat, soyabean, chana, garlic, onion, and carrot among others. And most farmers feel prospects for them have been clipped by the centre's import policies that disrupt the market pricing.
“When we cultivate soyabean here in such large scale why does the government import soyabean oil. This has crippled prices for our crops. No trader or oil mill is willing to procure soyabean above MSP. Prices are very low,” said a farmer from Indore.
A farmer from Mandsaur also alluded to this. “Export has gone down drastically. If we can export our garlic to neighboring countries, the pricing would have gone up by at least Rs 1,000-1,500 per quintal,” said a garlic farmer. He had sold his garlic for Rs 1,500 per quintal, much less than the MSP.
“When we were not producing much we were forced to increase production of pulses. The next year when we had record pulse production, the government started importing Tuar and the market price had crashed,” said another farmer.
Some farmers in Mhow, Mandsaur and Ujjain districts also alluded to the fact that the state government has been ruling for the last 15 years but their lives and farming has worsened in the last four years after the change of guard at the centre. “Everything was going fine, earlier we had issues of poor rainfall and poor crop production but our situation has worsened in the last four years,” they said.
Soyabean and carrot farmers in Mhow have also criticised Modi government. “Shivraj Chouhan is a good man. His schemes have been very beneficial to farmers but Modi government's policies have been anti-farmers. He has no vision for us,” said an angry farmer.
The view was also echoed by the business community in the Malwa region. Many small and medium businessmen said the centre has undermined freedom of the state government machinery. "When the Congress was at the centre, Shivraj Singh government would fight for what the state wants and get it. Now their hands are tied," said a businessman. The BJP is at the centre, at the state, Nagar Nigam and panchayat, leaving little room for opposition.
GST and demonetisation policies by the BJP led central government had affected businesses across the state. But its impact is being felt this election too.
The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years now and Shivraj Singh Chouhan has held his fort as a doer, development focused on people’s well-being. Not one person who we met in our election trail said Chouhan was incompetent.And this image may be the only saving grace for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.