With a firm eye on Lok Sabha polls, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, along with his cabinet colleagues today began his fast here against the Centre's "apathetic" attitude towards rain-hit farmers in the state.
"The people of the state stood behind farmers in their hour of crisis and provided them all possible help to deal with the calamity," the Chief Minister said addressing the sit-in protest scheduled to go on till 2 PM.
"We have already earmarked Rs 2,000 crore for providing relief to farmers and this is just the beginning. We will take all possible measures to provide aid to the affected farmers," Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
"Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and ministers are observing fast to draw the attention of the Central Government towards the plight of farmers," he said.
The ruling BJP, which had demanded declaration of extensive damage to crops by rain and hailstorm in MP as a "national calamity" has given a call to observe a shut down until 2 pm today in order to highlight the alleged apathy of the Centre towards the state's farmers.
It has also demanded a special package of Rs 5,000 crore from the Centre for providing relief to affected farmers.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan also hit out at the Congress for dubbing his visit to the affected villages as 'Ola paryatan'(hail-tourism) and accused its leaders of being "insensitive" towards farmer woes.
The CM also criticised the Centre for not providing relief to soybean crop loss, not purchasing gram crop on MSP at Rs 3100 per quintal and for not recognising Madhya Pradesh as a basmati rice producing region.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan alleged that the Centre is not doing so at the behest of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and also because of Pakistan's opposition to the move.
"APEDA has joined hands with Pakistan for doing injustice to the farmers of Madhya Pradesh," Chouhan alleged.
Cabinet Ministers including Kailash Vijaywargiya, Jayant Mallaiya, Uma Shankar Gupta and Babulal Gaur have also sat on fast.
Yesterday, Madhya Pradesh BJP President Narendra Singh Tomar had said, "When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had no time to meet the MP Chief Minister during his last visit to Delhi on the issue of farmers despite the fact that he was present in the national capital, the BJP is left with no option except to resort to protest."