Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Member of Parliament (MP) from Nizamabad Arvind Dharmapuri has written to the central government to shift turmeric from under the ministry of commerce to the ministry of agriculture so growers can reap the benefits of schemes and welfare measures extended to eligible crops.
To push for the case, a precedent has been cited where union commerce minister Piyush Goyal proposed shifting the Coffee Board to the ministry of agriculture. This was suggested to extend the benefits of schemes in agriculture to coffee growers.
“This precedent has been cited to push the case of turmeric farmers who are part of the Spices Board of India so that they could be included in agriculture,” stated a source.
Turmeric key for sound political health
The communication to count turmeric in the list of agricultural crops is significant in view of impending assembly elections in Telangana. With an eye on the polls next year, the Bharatiya Janata Party has shifted focus to issues and groups that can impact its influence in the southern state. One of the prominent ones is turmeric farmers.
Sample this— out of 185 candidates who had filed their nomination for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls here, 178 were independent aspirants. These were turmeric farmers. It was their way to protest against the government’s apathy and for not fulfilling the demand of a separate Haldi Board. This led to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s candidate and the chief minister’s daughter Kavitha Kalvakuntla losing the election to BJP’s Dharmapuri.
“These independents took a major chunk of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) votes that could have come to us and our margin could have increased tremendously. But they wanted to protest this way,” stated Dharmapuri.
According to the MP, turmeric, known as “yellow gold” in the state, decides the fate of as many as five assembly constituencies.
Dharmapuri says that a majority of the voters in Balkonda are turmeric farmers, while assembly segments like Armoor, Koratala, and Jagtial have 35 to 25 per cent voters who are turmeric growers. Nizamabad (rural) has 10 per cent of such population.
With the Haldi Board denied and the paddy procurement demand rejected by the Centre, the TRS has upped the ante against the BJP in the state. Dharmapuri though has publicised a list of initiatives taken for the turmeric growers by the central government.
The BJP MP alleges that the TRS tried to misuse the paddy procurement issue and did the protests in the name of farmers.
With assembly polls in mind, the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to assure turmeric farmers that despite the Centre not acceding to their demands for a separate Turmeric Board, it has done more for them.
“A regional office opened in Nizamabad has more power than the board to meet the needs of the farmers. The price crops fetch has gone up. A special train for turmeric farmers to Sangli has been started,” said Dharmapuri.
The party is targeting the Reddy community as well which is significant in number and predominantly turmeric farmers. Club this with the Bunkar community and that is almost 30 per cent of votes.
Senior leaders in the party believe that the assembly polls in the state next year are likely to witness politics with crops at the core of it.
“When it comes to livelihood, all other differences fade out. Farmers become one, and a force to reckon with,” said a senior leader of the state.