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Gujarat fair eludes 76 farmers

Patna, Aug. 25: Anything but Gujarat, or Narendra Modi.

The latest victims of political and economic war between Bihar and Gujarat are 76 innocuous farmers — selected by the Nitish Kumar government to represent the state at Vibrant Gujarat Global Agriculture Summit to be held in Gandhinagar between September 9 and 11.

Confirming the development, agriculture department sources said the state is facing severe drought and the department would organise its own programmes for farmers during that period.

To be attended by over 3,000 farmers from across the country, Modi is expected to speak on the common problems faced by farmers of India. The show was originally to be held in January next year but was advanced to September this year. Modi will hold the centrestage and felicitate 101 farmers from the country.

In fact, several government-funded NGOs have been asked to bring farmers to Gandhinagar from across the country. Following the Bihar government’s refusal to send 76 farmers, there are reports of an NGO funding the visit of 125 farmers from the state.

Last year, the state claimed record production in rice after two back-to-back normal monsoon in as many years.

Sumanta Kumar, a farmer from Nalanda, claimed to have created a world record in rice production. The state boasted about world record in potato production by Nitish Kumar, also a farmer from Nalanda, the chief minister’s district. Surprisingly, even though Nitish, the farmer, was presented as one of the icons of agriculture in Bihar, he was never considered for the trip to Gujarat. “I would have liked to go to Gujarat in the global meet. But I was never extended an offer by the state government,” he told The Telegraph. During the meet in Gandhinagar, a kisan panchayat would be held in which an interactive session with farmers has been planned.

Former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has termed the decision “pathetic”.

“I can understand opposing Narendra Modi politically. But they have gone to the extent of hating anything, which is connected to Gujarat. The JD(U) is treating Gujarat as if it is an alien enemy state. The meeting in Gujarat could have been a learning process for farmers of Bihar. It is a show about innovation and new technology being used in agriculture,” Modi said. Incidentally, an exhibition, “Display of Best Practices and Latest Technologies” will be inaugurated at the meet in which at least 200 farmers from 15 countries would participate.

A JD(U) MP said he was not aware of any development of postponement of the farmers’ visit to Gujarat.

“Anyway, the meet will just be another platform for Narendra Modi to project himself as the prime ministerial candidate,” he added.

The “Bihar model” versus the “Gujarat model” has been a subject of contention between the JD(U) and the BJP even when they were allies. The JD(U) leaders have taunted Narendra Modi’s claim of development stressing that Gujarat was already a developed state and that the Nitish model was superior because it worked in a backward state with “inclusive growth”.

Gujarat’s agriculture growth is 11 per cent compared to 6.7 per cent of Bihar.

After the split of the allies in June, the taunts have become more vicious as the JD(U) leaders accuse their BJP counterparts of living in Bihar but praising Gujarat. Now, the fight between the two former political allies has gone beyond politics. Missing the bus to Gandhinagar, the farmers will feel it the hard way over the next few years.