'Cong instigating violence, politicising MP farmers' stir'
Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday accused the Congress of "instigating violence and politicising" the farmers' stir in Madhya Pradesh and termed party leader Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mandsaur as "another photo opportunity".
Speaking to reporters here, Naidu asked the Congress to behave in a "more mature and responsible" manner to help restore normalcy in the hotbed of the farmers' protest, instead of fanning sentiments.
The Information and Broadcasting Minister also dismissed the Congress' demand that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan step down from his post in view of the deaths of five protesting farmers in police firing.
Naidu recalled an incident which occurred on January 12, 1998 in the state's Betul district where 24 farmers had died, allegedly in police firing ordered by then chief minister and Congress leader Digvijay Singh.
He asked why did Singh did not step down after the deaths of farmers who were seeking compensation following losses caused by hailstorm in the district.
"Did the Congress president visit the victim farmers then?" Naidu asked.
He assured farmers of Madhya Pradesh that the state government was taking all possible steps to deal with the issue of drop in prices of certain agricultural produce.
"It is unfortunate that the Congress is trying to politicise the issue. It is instigating, fuelling violence in the state of Madhya Pradesh," Naidu alleged.
"The Congress vice-president now wants to visit the place as part of his photo opportunity yatra which he undertakes on a regular basis," the minister quipped.
Defending Chouhan, Naidu hailed him as the "most farmer- friendly chief minister" who took quick measures to control the present situation in the state, which he said has registered highest growth rate vis- -vis agriculture sector.
Naidu also listed a slew of measures the Centre and state government had undertaken in for the welfare of the farmers, including efforts of increasing irrigated area size and making available adequate electricity and seeds.
"Production of certain crops is beyond expectation so there is fall in the prices and the government is trying to address the problem. I appeal to them, please cooperate with the government, don't try to create panic and don't try to aggravate the situation," he added.
Apparently referring to the demands for debt relief by the farmers, Naidu said loan waiver depends upon financial condition of the state governments.
Bringing farmers out of the situation calls for long-term measures which the Centre and state government were taking, he added.
"The UP government has done it, so have Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments. Now the Maharashtra government said that there will be a biggest loan waiver in the state. But still the Congress and the other opposition party want to instigate people," the minister said.
The farmers in western Madhya Pradesh, particularly Mandsaur and Dewas districts, have been protesting for a week now, demanding debt relief and better crop prices.
The protest, however, has been marred by violence and killings of peasants allegedly in police firing.