Nizamabad MP Dharmapuri Arvind, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party, chose a novel way of making his pre-election promises before the 2019 general election. Unlike other candidates who make promises in manifestos or at rallies, Mr. Arvind made them on stamp paper, mostly in vogue at the village level in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. He won the election.
Last week, Mr. Arvind’s convoy was obstructed by turmeric farmers, whom he later called TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) activists, when he was on a visit to Nandipet mandal. Mr. Arvind alleged that disguising themselves as turmeric farmers, TRS activists had attacked him and damaged his vehicle as the police “played spectators”.
Nearly three years after the novel way in which he made his poll promises, Mr. Arvind has not been able to give a reason for his inability to fulfil two of his promises: one of getting a Turmeric Board sanctioned to Nizamabad and the other of getting a minimum support price fixed for turmeric and red jowar, both of which are grown extensively in his parliamentary constituency. He had also said in 2019 that he would quit as MP and join the farmers’/ people’s movement if he fails to keep these promises.
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of turmeric in the world. In the country, Telangana was the largest producer of turmeric in 2020-21. Since 2014, the Telangana government has been requesting the Centre to establish a Turmeric Board in the State along the lines of the Spices Board but its efforts have not borne fruit. The erstwhile Nizamabad district is one of the biggest centres of turmeric trade in the State. Telangana’s argument is that the mandate of the Spices Board is too large and it handles too many spices, which is why it needs a separate Turmeric Board. Special zones to promote and export the spice have not been created, which is why exports are low, said TRS Lok Sabha Member K. Kavitha in 2018. While the BJP-led Central government has not conceded to this demand, it promised before the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections a Turmeric Board in that State. This further enraged farmers in Telangana.
In reply to a question by TRS MP K.R. Suresh Reddy in the Rajya Sabha last year, Union Minister for Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar made it clear that there was no proposal to set up a Turmeric Board in Telangana. He said that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had set up regional office-cum-extension centres of the Spices Board at Nizamabad to promote exports of spices in the region, including turmeric.
Perhaps, Mr. Arvind has also come to the conclusion that the issue is beyond his control now and is mulling contesting the Assembly election instead of re-contesting from the Nizamabad parliamentary constituency, irrespective of what the party leadership has in store for him.
During the war of words between the BJP and TRS, particularly between him and Armoor MLA A. Jeevan Reddy of the TRS, Mr. Arvind vowed that he would contest from Armoor in the next election and defeat Mr. Reddy with a majority of at least 50,000 votes. Mr. Reddy, in turn, said he will mobilise 10,000 farmers and felicitate Mr. Arvind if the latter gets the Turmeric Board sanctioned.
The turmeric-growing farmers in the State continue to mount pressure on the Centre for a Turmeric Board. They argue that it is essential for them to get MSP for the spice crop. They say that the price of the crop has crashed while production costs have increased. They believe that a Board will address their problems. The farmers are planning to intensify their protests. Resolving the issue quickly would help the government avert another farm-related crisis.