Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao set up a fresh agrarian confrontation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi just months after the central government’s climbdown on new agricultural laws, as he launched a sit-in protest in Delhi on Monday over a dispute involving the purchase of rice from farmers in his state.
“If Modi has the guts, let him arrest me… With folded hands, I tell the PM and [Union Food Minister] Piyush Goyal. Please buy our food grains. I give you 24 hours, after that, we will take our decision,” said the leader who has been on the warpath with PM Modi for several months.
“Telangana demands their right. I would like to say to the PM to frame a new agriculture policy, and we will also contribute to that. If you do not do it, then you will be removed and the new government will make a new integrated agriculture policy,” KCR said.
“Don’t play with sentiments of farmers who have the power to topple governments. Farmers are not beggars,” he added.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leaders led by the Chief Minister launched a day-long dharna against the centre on Monday in the national capital, demanding procurement of 15 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from the state.
This will be the party’s first protest rally in Delhi after coming to power in Telangana in 2014 amid mounting pressure back home over buying the produce from farmers.
The party MPs, MLAs, all cabinet ministers, and elected representatives of urban and rural local bodies sat on a dharna at the Telangana Bhawan in Delhi.
The TRS intensified its protest and called the Delhi demonstration after the central government allegedly refused Telangana’s request to buy parboiled rice in the current crop season.
Ahead of the dharna, the TRS put up billboards and posters with the slogans ‘one nation-one procurement policy’ and ‘protect the interests of farmers’ erected in and around Telangana Bhawan.
KCR, who is president of the TRS, has been in the national capital for the past 10 days for a medical check-up and to review the arrangements for the protest.
The centre had contested Telangana’s stand, with Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal recently saying that the Telangana government had given in writing that it will not supply parboiled rice but raw rice to the Food Corporation of India.
The standoff comes about five months after the centre repealed three laws aiming at deregulating agricultural markets, bowing to pressure from farmers held protests near Delhi for over a year to demand that the rollback.
Telangana state BJP president Kumar on Saturday alleged that the TRS government’s “politicking on paddy procurement” smacks of a large-scale conspiracy to help middlemen make crores of rupees and divert the anger of farmers towards the centre.