Andhra Pradesh's Agrarian Crisis: Why Farmers' Issues Fail to Sway Elections

Andhra Pradesh's agricultural economy is plagued by an agrarian crisis, but farmers' issues have never been a central theme in elections. Despite past agitations and promises from political parties, the crisis remains unaddressed due to polarization and landowner influence.

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Andhra Pradesh's Agrarian Crisis: Why Farmers' Issues Fail to Sway Elections

Andhra Pradesh's Agrarian Crisis: Why Farmers' Issues Fail to Sway Elections

Despite being an agricultural economy with a majority of tenant farmers, Andhra Pradesh has never made farmers' issues a central theme in elections, unlike Punjab, where the farmers' agitation led to the Aam Aadmi Party's election win in 2022. The main reason for this is that the actual landowners in Andhra Pradesh are not affected by the agrarian crisis, while the tenant farmers who bear the brunt have limited political influence.

Why this matters: The failure to address farmers' issues in Andhra Pradesh has significant implications for the state's agricultural economy and the livelihoods of millions of farmers. If left unchecked, the agrarian crisis could lead to widespread poverty, migration, and social unrest, ultimately affecting the entire country.

In the 1980s, farmers in Andhra Pradesh launched a massive agitation called the 'Akhilapaksha Rythu Udyamam' (all-party farmer agitation), demanding a solution to the agrarian crisis. This led to the formation of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the rise of N.T. Rama Rao. However, since then, the farmers' voice has been polarized, leading to a weakening of their influence.

Several factors contribute to the polarization and weakening of the farmers' voice in Andhra Pradesh. Landowners who do not engage in farming enjoy benefits like interest-free loans and agricultural subsidies, while small and marginal farmers have little influence. Most farmers in the state belong to the small and marginal category, with limited political clout. Landowners are often associated with political parties and show little interest in taking up farmers' issues during elections.

Furthermore, farmers participate in state elections with region and locality-specific farm interests, rather than unitedly demanding solutions to the agrarian crisis. The construction of irrigation canals has also led to polarized local irrigation politics, further weakening the farmers' voice. As CPI(M) State secretary V. Srinivasa Rao points out,"In comparison to big farmers and landowners, the small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers have no voice or their voices go unheard."

In recent elections, political parties in Andhra Pradesh have made promises to farmers but failed to address the agrarian crisis comprehensively. In 2014, the TDP promised a farm loan waiver but did not present a holistic plan to tackle agrarian issues. Similarly, in 2019, the YSRCP promised the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme instead of taking a comprehensive approach to help the agriculture sector.

As Andhra Pradesh goes to polls in the 2024 Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections, the state's agricultural economy and the plight of its farmers remain a crucial issue. However, the polarization of farmers' voices, the influence of landowners, and the lack of a united front in demanding solutions to the agrarian crisis continue to prevent farmers' issues from becoming a significant poll plank in the state.