Hours after taking charge on Monday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath cleared a proposal for waiving farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh, fulfilling a promise made by the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls that are widely believed to have tilted the scales its favour.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had promised a farm loan waiver within 10 days of his party coming to power in the state, where it ended the 15-year-long BJP rule.
Addressing reporters at the state secretariat after taking charge as new chief minister, Nath said, "After taking oath, I have cleared the first file related to writing off loans up to Rs two lakh."
After Nath signed the relevant file, Rajesh Rajora, Principal Secretary, Farmers' Welfare and Agriculture Development Department, issued an order in this regard.
"The Madhya Pradesh government has taken a decision to write off short-term crop loan of eligible farmers up to the limit of Rs two lakh, as on March 31, 2018, from nationalised and cooperative banks," the order stated.
Rajora said an estimated 34 lakh farmers will benefit from the loan waiver whose size he pegged between Rs 35,000 crore to Rs 38,000 crore.
Income taxpayers and government employees are not eligible for loan waiver, the senior bureaucrat said.
Justifying his decision to waive farm loans, Nath asked that when nationalised banks can write off 40 to 50 per cent loans of big industrialists, why can't cultivators get the same relief.
Addressing a public rally on June 7 at Pipliya Mandi in Mandsaur district, Gandhi had announced his party would waive farm loans after coming to power in the state.
"Here Kamal Nath (MP Congress president) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (the state Congress poll campaign committee chairman) are sitting. The day the Congress comes to power in MP, count 10 days, I say with guarantee that farmer loans will be waived within 10 days. It won't take even the eleventh day," Gandhi had said at the rally.
Later, this announcement was included in the Congress manifesto, titled 'Vachan Patra'.
The Congress president had reiterated the farm loan waiver promise repeatedly while campaigning for the November 28 assembly elections.
Soon after Nath signed the file, Gandhi tweeted, "CM, Madhya Pradesh, waives farm loans. 1 done. 2 to go."
It is widely believed the farm loan waiver promise helped the Congress win the state where it was out of power for 15 years.
Six farmers were killed in police firing at Pipliya Mandi during an agitation in June last year.
The Congress won 114 assembly seats and secured the support of seven more MLAs, SP one and BSP one and four independents, to cross the majority mark of 116 in the 230- member Assembly.
Nath was sworn in as the 18th chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Monday afternoon.
Governor Anandiben Patel administered the oath of office to the 72-year-old Congress veteran who was at the forefront in steering the party to a victory in the assembly polls.