DC Edit | A lull before the storm in Telangana paddy politics

With agitations threatened by the Congress and BJP in the state, the TRS finally agreed to buy the crop

After a high-decibel attack against the Central government for not procuring all the paddy set to be harvested in rabi season in the state, including a high-visibility dharna in the national capital joined by farmer leader Rakesh Singh Tikait, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao has assured farmers that the state government would be procuring all the grain harvested in a press conference in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

The announcement only brings to a pause the current episode of a long-drawn political showdown between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Congress and the BJP, the two increasingly belligerent Opposition parties in the state. The tensions would resume with the new farming cycle as a bound-to-be bitter election looms ahead.

The irony of the politics over paddy lies in the early success of the TRS government, led by Mr Chandashekar Rao, aka KCR, in restoring traditional water tank structures and mega irrigation schemes and creating the possibility of a near-perpetual water supply to all villages as well as converting a drought-prone zone into a green state. Besides propelling the separate statehood movement forward, this ended several historic problems that plagued the region, including labour migration and farmer suicides.

However, the “problems of plenty” arose faster than anticipated. Along with the pre-sowing season farmer cash input subsidy scheme, Rythu Bandhu, the abundant supply of water meant crop output grew dramatically, leading to problems of procurement. Given the strong political connect farmer issues naturally have, any reform or change is fraught with risk — and the TRS, after some feeble attempts to coax or coerce farmers to take to sowing other crops, gave up.

The moment the TRS started sending signals to farmers to grow other crops, both the Opposition parties began to exploit the situation, asking them to exercise their right to choose the crop they sow. As farmers sow, so are governments bound to reap.

The TRS was being cornered by both the Congress and the BJP in the state, led by their respective leaders, A. Revanth Reddy and Bandi Sanjay Kumar, ambitious men who believe they can have a shot at replacing the incumbent chief minister if they play the farmer card right.

The TRS tried to turn the tables on to the Centre, by directing all fury towards the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, demanding the Centre buy the paddy. The Centre refused to budge, citing the fact that the national crop procurement policy was not only important for ensuring national food security, but also facilitated subsidised food supply to poorer sections, created a level playing field for farmers across states and fulfilled India’s global obligations under WTO on food imports and exports.

Also, the Centre did not blink an eye in calling out the Telangana government on not meeting all its obligations of supplying crops in the previous two years. With agitations threatened by the Congress and BJP in the state, the TRS finally agreed to buy the crop. All three parties are now fighting for credit with regard to the move.

It is a problematic trend if parties indulge in irresponsible ways, more so with farmers, the true foundation of India. But it is an inevitable problem that cannot be wished away.

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