Amidst the shadows of a deepening agrarian crisis and plummeting prices of cotton and soyabean, the first phase of polling in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region that was held on April 19 cast a worrying forecast for the BJP. As discontent simmers among the farmers, the electoral battle, poised to escalate with eight more constituencies gearing up for the polls on Thursday, BJP leaders in both Vidarbha and Marathwada are scrambling to reclaim lost ground by directly addressing the agricultural turmoil. On the opposing front, the air is charged with anticipation.

Numerous farmers in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, where cotton, soyabean, and tur are the primary Kharif crops, had stored their cotton harvests in anticipation of higher prices. However, despite their hopes, cotton prices have continued to decline, even into April, forcing them to sell at disappointing rates. For the second year in a row, cotton prices have dropped significantly. Whereas farmers were hoping for prices between ₹12,000 and ₹13,000 per quintal, the current rate has plummeted to as low as ₹6,800 per quintal.

Challenges for the BJP 

The constituencies of Buldhana, Akola, Amravati, Wardha, Yavatmal-Washim, Hingoli, Nanded, and Parbhani in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, which will go for polls on Friday, are facing a severe agrarian crisis, leading to significant discontent among farmers. Reports indicate that during a review of the first phase of voting, preliminary data suggested that this unrest among farmers could pose challenges for BJP candidates. In response, to mitigate similar issues in the second phase of polling, BJP leaders are now prioritising the issue of cotton prices in their campaign efforts.

During an election rally in Ralegaon, Yavatmal district, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reassured farmers, urging them not to be concerned about the declining prices of cotton and soyabean. He pledged that the government would bridge the gap between the current prices and the prices expected by farmers after the elections. Additionally, he guaranteed that once the election code of conduct concludes, the government will promptly deposit the funds into farmers’ accounts.

Charisma vs Concerns

But it’s not just in Vidarbha and Marathwada that BJP leaders are encountering angry farmers. In the western and northern parts of Maharashtra, where polls are scheduled for next month, farmers are also voicing their concerns. Recently, during a speech by State Minister Chandrakant Patil, a farmer interrupted and questioned what the government has done for farmers in the past decade.

As the election unfolds, it will not only reshape Maharashtra’s political scene but also serve as a barometer for the extent to which farmers’ concerns influence the voting pattern. While BJP state leaders express confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma to secure maximum seats, opposition parties have intensified their campaign, alleging that the Modi government has failed to address farmers’ issues and the agrarian crisis.