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When Varanasi goes to polls on 19 May in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will find himself up against an unlikely group of opponents – 25 turmeric farmers from Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
The farmers are contesting to draw politicians’ attention to remunerative prices for turmeric and the constitution of a turmeric board.
Alleging that Modi has worsened farm distress, president of Turmeric Farmers Association of India PK Deivasigamani said,“because of Modi, debts haven’t been lightened. Lands are being snatched away. There are no affordable prices. He has made the burden of debt heavier.”
The farmers also alleged that the Election Commission colluded with the BJP and deliberately delayed their nomination process. “The EC has failed in its duties,” farmers said.
‘EC Colluded With BJP, It Has Failed In Its Duties’
However, the farmers’ campaign was marred by obstacles, as only 25 farmers managed to file their nominations.
Alleging that the Election Commission colluded with the government and the BJP to hinder their nominations, the farmers staged a protest at the collector’s office on Monday, 29 April.
“The EC has colluded with the BJP and troubled our nominations. They didn't give us the challan until 2 pm. The whole nomination process requires at least 4-5 hours. They shut the office at 3 pm. This is extremely undemocratic. The EC has failed its duties,” president of Telangana Turmeric Farmers Association, Narasimham Naidu said.
Further, the farmers alleged the police harassed them and deliberately delayed their nomination process.
What Are the Farmers Demanding?
Due to drought-like conditions, turmeric, which is Nizamabad's primary crop is facing low yields, exacerbated by lack of MSP.
“Instead of profits, we have incurred losses. The season for turmeric farming is 9 months long. Cultivating one acre costs Rs 1.5 lakh, but when we go to the market we only get Rs 1 lakh for it,” said Narasimha Naidu, a turmeric farmer from Nizamabad.
The farmers say the establishment of a National Turmeric Board will ensure setting a Minimum Support Price for turmeric and help weed out the middlemen.
“Farmers are getting Rs 2,000. You tell me, what can you do with Rs 2,000? It is not even enough to procure labour. We need to add two lorries of cow dung as manure to cultivate turmeric. Each lorry costs Rs 25,000. How useful is Rs 2,000?” Rajshekhar, a turmeric farmer from Telangana said.
The turmeric farmers from Telangana and Tamil Nadu decided to contest against Modi, taking inspiration from the 178 farmers who made their presence felt by contesting from Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency on 11 April.
The farmers had alleged that the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) failed to ensure MSP for turmeric and red jowar.
This Is TRS’ Political Stunt: BJP’s Arvind Kumar
Meanwhile, Nizamabad Lok Sabha candidate for BJP D Arvind Kumar has alleged that the farmers' electoral fight is an orchestrated campaign by TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao's daughter, Kalvakuntla Kavita, who is the sitting MP of Nizamabad.
“No villager has sponsored these farmers. Kavita Ji has sponsored their candidatures. This has been done to cover up her failures and is nothing but a publicity and political stunt,” Kumar alleged.D Arvind Kumar, BJP Nizamabad Lok Sabha Candidate
Kumar alleged that some nominees are not even farmers and that they have no land. Ten people from the group which filed nominations are with the TRS, he said.
Arvind claimed that the farmers' campaign was a ploy by Kavita, as a revenge to the 178 farmers who had filed nominations against her on 11 April.
Earlier, Kavitha had alleged that the Congress and the BJP had instigated the farmers' campaign against her.
However, the farmers have dismissed such allegations and said that the community in their village collected some money to aid their campaign.