First time after becoming CM, KCR comes out to sit in a public protest

Until recently, Telangana CM KCR, who has often maintained a cordial relationship with the BJP nationally, has now taken an aggressive stand against the Modi government with the paddy procurement row.
KCR staging a dharna accompanied by his colleagues
KCR staging a dharna accompanied by his colleagues

“The war has begun,” declared Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao as he vowed to lead the farmers’ struggle in India if the Union government does not procure paddy from Telangana. The CM made the statement during the protest against the BJP-led Union government on Thursday, November 18. The peculiarity in the CM’s participation in the protest was writ large — it was the first that KCR came out for a protest after becoming the Chief Minister of the bifurcated Telangana state in 2014. It was a reflection of the change in the political ground of Telangana.

 The last KCR was seen leading a public movement was in the struggle for the statehood of Telangana, for which he floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party. On Thursday, the CM protested at Dharna Chowk near Indira Park, Hyderabad — the same protest site where he had banned protests in 2017, and even wanted to shift the location to the city outskirts to supposedly maintain law and order. It is an irony that many activists and citizens cannot ignore.

The dharna by KCR and other TRS leaders, came against the backdrop of a war of words between ruling TRS and BJP over paddy procurement and a clash between the activists of the two parties during state BJP president and MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar's visit to procurement centres this week. Incidentally, until recently, KCR has often maintained a cordial relationship with the BJP nationally — by not passing a resolution against the controversial farm laws in the Assembly, or by joining in public protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. With the paddy procurement row, he has now taken an aggressive stand against the BJP-led Modi government.

At the protest on Thursday, CM KCR fired a salvo at the Union government, stating that the TRS party will lead the farmers’ struggle across the country, if necessary and if the government doesn’t mend its ways. He alleged that the Union government was refusing to procure paddy from the farmers of Telangana and did not provide any clarity on whether they would buy it or not.

The CM gave a two-day ultimatum to the Union government to respond to their demand. “If they do not respond, I will speak to the ministers and officials and decide the course of action,” KCR said. He threatened that the TRS party will dump the paddy in the BJP office in Hyderabad, if they fool the farmers without procuring the paddy.   

 Why the protest over paddy procurement

The TRS and the BJP are at loggerheads over the paddy procurement. Telangana has produced 10.6 million tonnes of paddy in the Rabi season. However, the Union government, through the Food Corporation of India, has refused to purchase more than 6 million tonnes of paddy from the state. The surplus production of paddy has affected farmers severely who are queuing up at markets demanding the state government to purchase them.

BJP MP Sanjay Kumar, on Wednesday, alleged that the state government did not start procurement of the rainy season crop, which made farmers wait at procurement centres since the Dussera festival. “Farmers would not have died of heart attack at procurement centres or taken their lives had the government started procurement properly," he claimed.

The same day, KCR shot a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking the Union government to direct the FCI to “complete the procurement of the balance 5 lakh metric tonne (LMT) of rice produced in the rabi season of 2020-21 in Telangana and increase the target beyond 4 lakh metric tonnes for the procurement of rice during the ongoing Kharif season (2021-22) to 90% of the production, as done in the state of Punjab.” 

‘Will continue our fight’: KCR 

 Extending his demand to the Dharna Chowk, where thousands of party supporters had gathered, KCR launched a scathing attack against the Union government, pointing out that India was performing poorly than countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan on the Global Hunger Index. “Is there anything more shameless than this?” the CM asked. 

The CM demanded to know what was the Union policy on paddy procurement. “Under the Food Security Act, the Union government has the right to store the produce, not the state governments. So why don’t they store them or export them? If required, spend Rs 2 lakh crore and save the farmers,” he asked, adding, “Will they let live farmers or not? We have been reviving lakes and tanks and reinstilling the faith of the farmers in agriculture. Now it is your responsibility to procure the produce.”  

Alleging incompetence by the Union government in the agriculture sector, KCR referred to the farmers' protest in North India. “Farmers have been fighting against the unjust farm laws in north India. But, they are being attacked and killed with cars. Now, they have come for us,” KCR said.

The TRS chief warned that the party will lead the struggle of farmers across the country if the Union government continued with this attitude.

Incidentally, the TRS had opposed the farm laws introduced by the Union government. However, KCR later took a sharp U-turn, saying that the sale and purchase of agricultural produce was not the government’s responsibility.

He also accused the BJP of winning elections by spreading communal hatred. “Instead of resolving the agrarian crisis, you resort to Hindu-Muslim fights during elections and ignite passions with anti-Pakistan sentiment. Is this politics? Everyone has understood your surgical strikes. People have learnt about your dramas,” he said.   

KCR alleged that he had urged the Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal 50 days ago to inform the target for procurement of paddy from the state, but there has been no response. "We will continue our fight till Union government does justice to our farming community," he said.

While the BJP in Telangana had criticised KCR for participating in a protest being the Chief Minister, the latter recalled how Narendra Modi, as the Gujarat Chief Minister, held a protest for 51 hours in 2006. "This points to the pitiable circumstances of CMs, Ministers and MLAs having to sit on dharna prevail in this country," he said.

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