Speaking to NDTV from Taprana village in Shamli district, Mr Rana claimed the Yogi Adityanath government had outperformed those led by the BSP and the Samajwadi Party.
“We have made the most payments… when BSP was in power Rs 55,000 crore was paid out over five years. But the Yogi government has paid over Rs 1.5 lakh crore,” he said.
However, when it was pointed out that in his constituency – Thana Bhawan – around Rs 200 crore was due in arrears to the sugarcane farmers, the minister hit back, saying: “Our government has paid 90 per cent of all dues. Your information is incorrect… we are continuously making payments.”
The farmers, whom NDTV spoke to after the minister left, seemed to disagree.
The Taprana village head said only payments till April last year had been cleared.
Ashraf Ali Khan, the opposition Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate from the Thana Bhawan seat, told NDTV sugarcane farmers were being forced to migrate to look for jobs. “See… there is no business here if they are not paid on time. So, there is an exodus of farmers because of the payment issue,” he said.
In September Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath increased the purchase price of sugarcane in the state by Rs 25 per quintal to a maximum of Rs 350 per quintal. Income will be increase by eight per cent and the lives of 45 lakh farmers will be “transformed”, the UP government said.
The farmers, however, were unimpressed; farmer leader Rakesh Tikait called it “a big joke” and said the high price of diesel in UP meant the increased amount was inadequate.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is leading her party’s campaign in UP, accused the BJP government of “cheating” sugarcane farmers and underlined the demand for Rs 400 per quintal.
The issue of payment to sugarcane farmers will likely be crucial as political parties move their campaigns into high gear, with the BJP looking to defend the two (of three) seats it won in Shamli.
Shamli is in western UP, from where thousands of farmers participated in the 15-month protest against the farm laws. Opposition parties, most notably Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, are looking to exploit anger against the BJP and its government.
Mr Yadav this week declared that arrears to sugarcane farmers would be cleared in 15 days if the alliance led by his Samajwadi Party comes to power.
UP votes for a new government in a seven-phase poll that begins February 10.
Votes will be counted on March 10.