Jaipur: On the face of it, a red hammer and sickle flag atop a banyan tree is the only sign of Marxist influence in Mundwara on Sikar-Danta road. An animated discussion at a roadside stall over a cup of syrupy tea, however, lays bare strands of proletariat predilections in local politics.
The debate, apart from other things mundane, wafts and is about to settle down on one key factor this election — whether Jats in Dhod constituency of Sikar district will vote for comrade Pema Ram or Congress candidate Parasram Mordia.
This village of 4,000-odd residents is home to two former CPM MLAs. Pema Ram and Amra Ram, who is contesting from Danta Ramgarh. The two lost the last Assembly elections in 2013, but are hoping to ride the massive farm protest they led in 2017, forcing state governments to make concessions.
Sensing the rural distress in poll-bound states like Rajasthan, the BJP government at the Centre raised the Minimum Support Price of bajra or pearl millet by Rs 525 per quintal. The poll sop, announced with much fanfare after approval from the Union Cabinet, was part of the BJP outreach to farmers of this semi-arid region growing coarse cereals.
The procurement of bajra, fixed at Rs 1,950 per quintal by the Union government, however, has been tardy, forcing farmers to sell their produce in the open market at 30 to 40 percent less.
"Small farmers survive on credit. Once the crop is harvested, everyone expects us to clear our accounts at the earliest. From farm labourers to traders, there is pressure to pay up. If the procurement process is slow and cumbersome, we sell in the open market,” says a farmer in Mundwara.
Adjoining states like Punjab and Haryana have a better procurement mechanism. So grain bought cheap in the open market by local traders is sold for a neat profit outside.
"The procurement is the responsibility of both the state and central agencies. It is so convoluted that farmers prefer to go to the open market. You have to get yourself registered online. Then you are told when to bring your produce. If, for some reason, one fails to turn up on stipulated date, one has to go through the entire process again," says Sagar Khachariya of CPM-affiliated Kisan Sabha in Sikar.
Similar problems were face by farmers in selling moong dal at declared support price.
The farm distress has been compounded by stray cattle, especially cows, now found in abundance in Rajasthan. Fencing of the agricultural land to keep animals away from the standing crop has only added to farming expenses.
Sensing an opportunity, the Congress has, as in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, promised a farm loan waiver. Rahul Gandhi in his rallies has been re-iterating it.
The BJP calls it a poll gimmick. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while releasing the BJP manifesto earlier this week, called it a “make-belief formality” by those who "do not have the knowledge of the subject".
Farmers’ protest in Shekhawati and some parts of Bikaner district last year was led by CPM and its Kisan Sabha. The Congress, being the main opposition party, is emerging as a vicarious beneficiary.