Can Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra or other members of the Gandhi family distinguish between sugarcane and chari, a locally-grown fodder crop, asked Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana. This was his reply when he was asked about Priyanka Gandhi's attack on the government over a recent news report that claimed dues of sugarcane farmers had crossed Rs 10,000 crore in Uttar Pradesh.
"When the Congress was in power, it did not pay dues to the farmers. If Priyanka Gandhi or any other member of the Gandhi family can distinguish between sugarcane and chari, I will start believing that they have the right to speak on farmers," he told PTI in an interview. The UP minister of state (independent charge) for sugarcane development and sugar mills also claimed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has "accepted moral defeat" and has "fled from Amethi".
On the steps taken by the Yogi Adityanath government for cane farmers, Rana said, "When our government was formed, there were pending cane dues but so far, dues amounting to nearly Rs 60,000 crore have been paid." He said the amount was bigger than the budgets of some states, but the government paid it.
"In the previous regimes of the SP and the BSP, nothing was done for the sugarcane farmers and as a result, they died of starvation," he alleged. The minister said that sugarcane cultivation area in the state has increased by 22 per cent to 28 lakh hectare which showed that the Adityanath government has worked for the welfare of sugarcane farmers.
Out of 119 sugar mills in the state, there are 70 whose dues for 30-45 days had to be paid, Rana said, adding that there were some mills where the dues were pending only for the current season of 2-2.5 months. Sugarcane season is generally from November to April and it might extend to May, he said.
When asked whether the BJP has been able to overcome last year's shocking defeat in the Kairana bypolls, Rana said, "The by-elections were not for electing or deciding the prime minister of the country or the chief minister of the state." "Everybody knew that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue to be at the Centre, while Yogi Adityanath will continue to be in the state. This (Lok Sabha) election is to make Modiji the prime minister once again. Areas which witnessed more than 70 per cent polling in the assembly elections saw nearly 50 per cent polling in bypolls," he said.
Rana is an MLA from Thana Bhawan constituency in Shamli district. The seat is an assembly segment of Kairana parliamentary constituency. The minister said the party's margin of win in the Lok Sabha elections will be bigger than the 2014 polls.
Taking a jibe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi on contesting from Wayanad in Kerala in addition to Amethi, he said, "Rahul Gandhi has fled from Amethi. People of that place have seen a glimmer of development (vikaas ka diyaa) only during the five years of Modi government." "He (Rahul Gandhi) has accepted moral defeat and has fled apprehending that the voters of Amethi will seek an answer from him for duping them," Rana claimed.
On the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, he said, "There have been attempts to forge alliances on the basis of caste, but these are not natural unions. This is only an alliance of leaders, and not of their votes or party workers. People have forged a natural alliance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi." On the importance of western Uttar Pradesh, Rana said, "Since it is situated in close proximity to the National Capital Region, hence the western part of the state also has its share of importance in national politics."
"Western UP has always been associated with major agro-political movements. Secondly, anti-national forces tried to expand their footprints during the previous governments in the region. The news of Exodus also first emanated from western UP," the UP minister said. The BJP has done a lot of work on these issues, and hence the voters are enthusiastic about the saffron party, he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)