Kairana Lok Sabha by-election: Not Jinnah portrait, sugarcane farmers’ woes dominate campaign

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New Delhi | Published: May 21, 2018 1:08:12 PM

Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, which will go to polls on May 28, has approximately 16 lakh voters including 5.5 lakh Muslims and 1.5 lakh Jats.

Kairana, Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll, Kairana bypoll, BJP, RJD, Sugarcane farmers, Sugarcane, Sugarcane millsSugarcane farmers outside a sugar mill in Shamli in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Kairana Lok Sabha by-election: The controversy over Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait inside Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was expected to influence the Lok Sabha bypolls in neighbouring Kairana, but sugarcane has become the main issue in this constituency, which has six sugar mills – four private and two cooperative.

Jitender Hooda, a sugarcane farmer from Kheri Bairagi village of the Shamli district, told The India Express that farmers are concerned about their produce, not Jinnah. “How does it matter whether or not AMU has a photo of Pakistan’s founder?” he asked. “Our only concern today is cane payment.” Hooda has 8.1 acres of land where he harvests sugarcane.

The four private mills are – Shamli factory of Sir Shadi Lal Enterprises; Rana Sugars’ factory in Unn; Bajaj Hindusthan’s in Thana Bhawan; and Uttam Sugar’s in Shermau. The two cooperative mills are in Sarsawa and Nanauta. As on May 18, all these mills purchased sugarcane worth Rs 1,778.49 crore from farmers at the State Advised Price (SAP) of Rs 315-325 per quintal in the current 2017-18 season (October-September). But what is painful, farmers have not received money for their produce from these mills that have dues of over Rs 800 crore.

The Shamli factory, where Hooda supplies sugarcane, alone has dues of Rs 190.33 crore. The remaining five mills arrears stands at Unn (Rs 182.84 crore), Thana Bhawan (Rs 182.80 crore), Nanauta (Rs 115.66 crore), Shermau (Rs 80.79 crore) and Sarsawa (Rs 54.79 crore). It said that the mills have so far disbursed Rs 888.03 crore against Rs 1,695.25 crore, which was slated to be released within 14 days of purchase. The total arrears stand at Rs 807.22 crore.

Brahm Pal Singh, who grows sugarcane on 34 out of his 45-bigha land in Laprana village of Unn tehsil, noted the ruling BJP had in its manifesto promised that farmers will get full payment for their produce within 14 days but they are yet to receive money. He said farmers have received no payment after December 31. He said farmers in the region are suffering even after Suresh Rana, who is Minister for Sugarcane Development, is an MLA from Thana Bhawan constituency which falls in Shamli district. He also lashed out at the government over its policies for allowing sugar imports from Pakistan.

Suresh Rana accepts that payment to farmers is an issue. At Kela Shikarpur village in Thana Bhawan block, he said that the government will address farmers’ grievances. He said that this is not the first time “we are having the problem of cane dues from over-production”. “But unlike in the past, when you had to burn the cane in your fields or dump it in canals, we will ensure that mills will run till the last stick is crushed.”

Ajit Singh, the RLD president, at a rally in Shamli’s Lisad village said farmers are suffering because the BJP government is attempting to divide the farmers on basis of religion. He said that farmers are begging mills to life their produce. Appealing voters to choose a candidate who is eager to fight for their cause, Singh said, “You have a chance to vote again as farmers and not bother about the religion or caste of your candidate.”

The Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, which will go to polls on May 28, has approximately 16 lakh voters including 5.5 lakh Muslims and 1.5 lakh Jats. There are around 2.5 lakh Dalits mostly Jatavs, who vote for BSP. The other main community-wise voters are Kashyap (2 lakh), Gujjar (1.4 lakh) and Saini (1.2 lakh). The region has also Brahmins, Banias and Rajputs, who are seen as traditional vote-bank of the BJP.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP’s Hukum Singh had secured 50.54 % of the total votes. The constituency has five assembly segment (Shamli, Thana Bhawan, Gangoh, Nakur and Kairana). In assembly polls held last year, the BJP won four seats except for Kairana. The party’s vote share fell to 38.24 %. This time, the BJP has fielded Hukum Singh’s daughter Mriganka against united opposition’s nominee Tabassum Begum. Her son Nahid is the Samajwadi Party MLA from Kairana. She is contesting elections on the ticket of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

Yashpal Malik, a 40-bigha farmer from Lak, said that religion is the secondary issue for them. He said that he supplied about 2,200 quintals of cane to the Shamli mill this season. According to Malik, he received around 1.50 lakh of Rs 7.15 lakh due to him. The remaining amount, he said, is yet to be released by the mill. “For us, she (Tabassum Begum) is the RLD candidate and we are all voting for Chaudhary saab,” Maik said. He added that the village had around 8,600 voters including around 6,600 Jats. The Jats in the village own 98% of its 27,000 bigha farmland. Malik said that there were 1,450 Muslim voters but they all left after 2013 Muzaffarnagar and Shamli riots.

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