The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) took out an impressive rally from NTR Circle to VR Siddhartha Engineering College where it organised Rythu Garjana public meeting to highlight the problems of farmers and demand Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy and 13 other crops.
TDP sympathisers and leaders participated in large numbers turning the entire National Highway 9 from the NTR Circle to the venue of Rythu Garjana a stream of humanity.
TDP followers from various parts of coastal districts came in lorries, buses and two-wheelers to make the rally a big success.
Normal life in the city virtually came to a halt with all roads leading to the Rythu Garjana venue witnessing an endless flow of traffic. National leaders of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) participated in the rally after garlanding the statue of legendary actor and former chief minister N.T. Rama Rao at the NTR Circle. Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and SP leader Amar Singh and UNPA convenor N. Chandrababu Naidu paid floral tributes to NTR by placing a huge garland on his statue.
Over 6 lakh people, were attended to this meeting. Vijayawada faced the flood of farmers were coming from all coastal districts.
The nascent United National Progressive Alliance on Saturday chalked out a political strategy centred around farmers, unemployed youth and the poor in a bid to create an alternative political force at the national level with regional parties playing a crucial role.
Leaders of six regional political parties met in this coastal city for the first-ever conclave of the UNPA to discuss pressing issues as wide-ranging as terrorism, special economic zones, lucrative agriculture, Taslima Nasreen, law and order, Indo-US deal and national calamities.
Convened by former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, the conclave resembled a similar political meet held here 23 years ago by his father-in-law and TD founder N.T. Rama Rao. It was Rama Rao, who had brought all regional political parties onto a common platform in Vijayawada leading to the formation of the National Front and eventual capture of power in New Delhi.
The UNPA leaders led by Samajwadi Party president and UP former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav want to repeat history from this once political capital of Andhra Pradesh through realignment of non-BJP and non-Congress political forces to form the next government at the Centre.
"We met in Vijayawada 23 years ago under the leadership of NTR who was the chief minister then. This Vijayawada meeting will make a new beginning for a new India, an India that is democratic, healthy and strong," National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said. Of the UNPA leaders who participated in Saturday’s conclave, only Mr Abdullah was the part of the NTR’s National Front meeting held in 1983.
Apart from the Telugu Desam, the Samajwadi Party and the National Conference, other UNPA constituent parties that attended the conclave were Jharkhand Vimochana Morcha (Babu Lal Marandi), Asam Gona Parishad (Brindawan Goswami) and Indian National Lok Dal (Om Prakash Chautala). Mulayam Singh Yadav was aided by his lieutenant Amar Singh, who is also the official spokesperson of the UNPA.
Its last minute efforts notwithstanding, the UNPA failed to convince the Left, whose support is crucial for the third front to emerge as a formidable national force, to participate in the Vijayawada conclave. Even the CPI’s All-India Kisan Sabha stayed away despite promise by its general secretary Atul Kumar Anjan to make it.
Mr Mulayam Singh simply said they had been sailing with the Left for long, evading a directly reply to the question on why the CPI and the CPI(M) had stayed away from the conclave.
That the UNPA wants to take the support of the Left was clearly evident from the resolutions it adopted on the Nandigram, without criticising the Left Front government in West Bengal. Instead the UNPA sought to put the blame on Bangladeshi writer Tasleema Nasreen for the Nandigram fallout in Kolkata.
The UNPA leadership, despite discussing several issues, made the conclave appear as the forum on farmers’ problems. The Rythu Garjana (farmers’ roar) rally that followed the UNPA conclave focused on issues concerning farmers, particularly those growing paddy.
The UNPA demanded interest-free loans for small and marginal farmers and reduction in interest rate to three per cent for all agricultural loans, besides a one-time waiver of all cooperative and commercial bank loans borrowed by the farming community.
The other demands, that the UNPA had put forth to project itself as "farmer-friendly" political alliance, include implementation of Swaminathan Committee report on minimum support price, crop insurance and national agricultural insurance scheme for all crops with village as a unit, increase in subsidy on agriculture, no fertile land conversion into SEZs and health insurance for ryots.
Pointing out that over one lakh farmers have committed suicide across the country during the three-and-a-half years of the UPA rule, Naidu demanded that the Centre should give one time waiver on crop loans of small and marginal farmers, slash the interest rate on farm loans to 3 per cent from the present 7 per cent and increase the MSP on wheat, paddy, maize, cotton, groundnut, sugarcane, coconut, pulses, jowar, millets, oil seeds and all other agricultural products.