Three thousand, three thousand one hundred, three thousand two hundred — no, these are not sale callouts in an auction but proposed prices for paddy in the state of Chhattisgarh. Over the past ten days, farmers in the state have seen and heard about three different paddy prices, every time with an increase of Rs 100, exactly the way prices are called in an auction. The paddy belt of Chhattisgarh, which includes central, southern, south-western, and eastern districts, has been a focal point for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
On October 28, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi first announced the proposed hike in paddy procurement price per quintal. The current price is Rs 2,640 per quintal, while Gandhi promised to increase it to Rs 3,000 if his party retains power in this month’s election. Five days later, union home minister Amit Shah released the BJP’s manifesto in Raipur and announced that the government would procure paddy at Rs 3,100 per quintal.
Despite the announcement of several cash schemes in election rallies by senior leaders like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi as well as chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, the Congress was waiting for the BJP’s manifesto to be released. And, two days after that happened, Baghel released his party’s manifesto and revised the paddy price further, raising it to Rs 3,200 per quintal.
Polls bring minimum 46% hike in paddy price
The Centre’s paddy procurement price or minimum support price (MSP) stands at Rs 2,183 per quintal for the crop year 2023-24. With elections approaching, farmers in Chhattisgarh would get at least Rs 900 to Rs 1,000 extra as a state bonus, depending on which party comes to power.
The paddy procurement price has been the highest in Chhattisgarh among states. With the promised hikes, farmers in the state will see at least a 46% jump in overall paddy selling price.
Paddy worked as the prime mover for the Congress to come to power in the state in 2018 and it still plays a pivotal role in polls. The state government has also increased the quantity of purchase per acre from 15 quintal to 20 quintal. The additional bonus of Rs 900 and Rs 1,000 will go to a farmer’s account as input credit.
Paddy politics dwarfs Mahadev app case, ED raids, Naxal attacks
Even though Baghel is facing a relentless Enforcement Directorate probe just ahead of the assembly elections (voting in two phases on November 7 and 17), paddy procurement remains the main poll plank and the most crucial factor in the state. There were raids and seizures of unaccounted cases, there was a statement by the ED linking an accused person’s statement to the chief minister, and there have been investigations into alleged excise, paddy, and mining scams. Across all investigations, Baghel’s involvement has been alleged, either directly or indirectly.
However, for the farmers and other voters, it is all about which party gives a higher price for paddy and other cash schemes, say observers. Senior Congress leaders call Baghel’s announcement a “master stroke”, while BJP leaders claim that their manifesto with financial assistance for women and a hiked paddy procurement price will be a “game changer” for the party.
In the meantime, the BJP after protesting against political rivals’ cash benefit schemes and related programmes, calling those “revdis” or “freebies”, has finally embarked on paddy politics for the sake of the Chhattisgarh elections. According to the BJP’s manifesto, a Krishi Unnati Scheme will be launched, under which 21 quintals per acre of paddy will be procured from farmers at Rs 3,100 per quintal.