The Congress party’s appeal to the Election Commission to stall Rythu Bandhu payouts to farmers ahead of the rabi season has triggered a row in election-bound Telangana, with the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) accusing its rival of “trying to harm the interests of farmers”.

Manikrao Thakre, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Telangana, submitted a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner of India in New Delhi on Wednesday evening, alleging that the ruling BRS government in Telangana was deliberately timing the disbursals to farmers to win their favour ahead of the November 30 polls.

“It is trying to unfairly influence the voters. While we are in no way opposed to the transfer of money to the farmers, we believe for the sake of upholding the model code of conduct, ethics of fair elections and to ensure the protection of democratic values, we feel that the money should be disbursed before the date of filing nominations for the elections (November 3) or after the polling is completed (November 30),” the memorandum stated.

Thakre alleged that a similar exercise during the 2018 elections resulted in a sharp increase in polling percentage as the disbursals happened on the day of polling.

The BRS, in turn, alleged that the Congress party was trying to deny farmers financial assistance ahead of the rabi season. 

Accusing the Congress party of being anti-farmer, BRS Working President KT Rama Rao wondered if the Opposition party also wanted the government to stop the 24-hour power and drinking water supply.

The BRS government introduced the Rythu Bandhu scheme to provide farmers financial assistance of Rs 5,000 each for the kharif and rabi seasons to buy inputs (fertilisers, seeds and pesticides). Under the direct benefit scheme, the government had so far disbursed over Rs 72,500 crore.

Farmers’ union, however, criticised the government for not including tenant farmers in the scheme. They also allege that the funds are being misused as land-owning farmers who are no longer engaged in farming have been included in the scheme.