India: Will low potato prices hurt Modi’s BJP in Uttar Pradesh?

In January of this year, a potato farmer from Agra district made news for sending a money order of Rs 490 (€6.25) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was his net income after selling 19,000 kilograms of potatoes. The money order, according to the farmer, was supposed to serve as a reminder to the prime minister of his promises – specifically, that of doubling farmers’ incomes. 

Potato farmers in Uttar Pradesh – which accounts for more than 30% of India’s potato produce – have been complaining about low prices for the past three years. The problem is particularly severe in the regions of Agra, Hathras, Mathura and Aligarh, which go to polls next and account for a third of UP’s potato produce. All five parliamentary constituencies in these districts are currently held by the BJP.

“The BJP has done nothing for potato farmers or any farmer over the past five years. Why should we vote for them?,” said Pradeep Sharma, the farmer who had sent the money order to Modi.

Sharma, a resident of Barauli Ahir in Agra district, says that in the past four years, his debt has accumulated to Rs 3.5 million (€44,600). “I have been in trouble since 2015, when my crop failed due to a pest infestation. After demonetisation in 2016, the price of potatoes has been lower than the cost of production,” he said.


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He pointed out that he has written letters to Akhilesh Yadav, Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi seeking their help. None has been forthcoming. “No one has even bothered to visit me, forget providing help.”

This time, Sharma told thewire.in, he may vote for the Congress. “I am definitely not voting for the BJP. They are the most anti-farmer party. The regional parties are also not capable of addressing the issue. The Congress has said it wants to work for the farmer.”


 


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