The raging farmers' unrest in Madhya Pradesh has continued to roil national politics with the ruling BJP and the principal Opposition Congress continuing to cross swords over the 6 June incident in Mandsaur in the BJP-ruled MP in which at least five agitating farmers were killed allegedly in police firing.
The Congress has described the Mandsaur incident as "cold-blooded killings of farmers", questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence over it, and demanded MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's resignation.
It has also accused the BJP dispensations of allegedly being callous and apathetic towards farmers reeling under distress and crisis in various parts of the country.
Farmers in western MP and the adjoining Maharashtra have been protesting since 1 June to demand waiver of their loans and higher minimum support prices (MSPs) for their produce.
Hitting back at the Congress and blaming it for allegedly "instigating and politicising" the ongoing MP farmers' agitation, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu described the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's bid to visit the strife-torn Mandsaur on Thursday as "another photo opportunity".
Hitting out at the Congress leaders, Naidu accused them of playing politics over farmers' campaign. "The Congress is instigating and politicising the issue. It should stop doing that and behave as a responsible political party to help restore normalcy there,” Naidu told reporters here. "The Congress vice president now wants to visit the place as part of his photo opportunity yatra which he undertakes on a regular basis."
Rejecting the Congress's demand for CM Chouhan's dismissal over the Mandsaur killings, Naidu said on 12 January 1998, when the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh was the MP CM, 24 farmers had died allegedly in police firing in Betul district there.
Naidu asked why Digvijay had then not resigned over the killings of farmers who were seeking compensation for their crop losses caused by hailstorm. "Did the Congress president visit the victim farmers then?" he asked.
He hailed Chouhan as the "most farmer-friendly Chief Minister".
As regards the farmers' demands for loans waiver, Naidu said it depended upon financial condition of the state governments concerned. "The UP government has done it, so have Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments. Now the Maharashtra government said that there will be a biggest loan waiver in the state. But still the Congress and the other opposition want to instigate people," he said.
The Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, however, alleged that "PM Modi and CM Chouhan had failed to ensure adequate crop prices or compensation or debt waiver for farmers who only received bullets".
Meanwhile, the MP government Thursday reportedly conveyed to the Centre that five farmers were killed in Mandsaur in police firing, thereby putting an end to the "confusion" as to who had fired at the protesting farmers there. The MP Home Minister Bhupendra Singh, who had earlier denied that the police did not fire at farmers, also conceded the deaths of five farmers in police firing there.
In a report submitted to the Union Home Ministry, the MP government said the police were forced to resort to firing at agitating farmers when they carried on with massive violence and arson despite their lathicharge and tear gas shelling to control them.