In MPís golden harvest, rich pickings for CM

SC

By winning an award for excellence in foodgrain production on Tuesday, Madhya Pradesh may have redeemed itself. Till recently, it could not contribute to the central pool even a third of what its poor consumed. Last year, it procured three times more wheat than was distributed under the PDS.

It is a clever combination of earthy politics, hard work and generous help from nature that has helped Madhya Pradesh script this success story. Its production of 190.46 lakh tonne foodgrain in 2011-12 was 18.91 per cent more than its previous highest of 160.16 in 2009-10. It also won the top slot in the category of states producing 100 lakh tonnes.

On the political front, a slew of populist measures like giving a bonus of Rs 100 over and above the MSP and gradual reduction in interest rate on loans disbursed by cooperative banks to zero did the trick. The MSP is given by the Centre but by giving the additional amount, the state government succeeded in appropriating the role of the benefactor. Not surprisingly, a few other states have already started giving the largesse or plan to follow suit.

While private firms that used to buy wheat from MP started sourcing from states where it's cheaper, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan warded off any fallout with the refrain: "We will buy the last grain, no farmer will be turned away." The 70 per cent of the state's population still dependent on agriculture is a powerful vote bank.

Chouhan also sent a message when a couple of years ago, his government constituted a separate Krishi Cabinet comprising ministries and departments dealing with agriculture. It has not done anything extraordinary but it was enough to give the signal of seriousness. The opposition Congress has found itself inadequate to provide a political response to this. Its allegations about inflated volumes and irregularities haven't cut much ice. While Chouhan hopes to benefit in the state, the agriculture gains may also pay off centrally. By wearing his pro-kisan image on his sleeve, he has succeeded in doing with agriculture and other social sector schemes what his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi has done with infrastructure and industries.

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