Resources Research

Making local sense of food, urban growth, population and energy

How a farmer who killed himself a year ago appeared in a political ad

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A protest in Karnataka against the political advertisement

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government in Karnataka has run a political advertisement featuring a photograph of a farmer. The ad is part of a campaign to get votes for the party’s candidates during elections to village panchayats, to be held later in December. The farmer whose picture was used in the ad committed suicide on 27 May 2009, well over a year ago.

Either the BJP did not know the farmer in the picture was dead, or did not care in its hurry to get the campaign out in time for the elections. Either way, the outrage in Karnataka has turned into protest and all-round condemnation. The point however is that whether it is the BJP or the Congress, this sort of carelessness reflects how little real attention is given to those who grow food in India.

Extracts from press reports:

The family of Nagaraju from a village about 80 km from Bangalore in Mandya district says he killed himself in 2009 after he was unable to pay off massive debts. He left behind a wife and two young children who are in school. “He died one and a half year ago. Our relatives are coming and asking if he is still alive,” says Bhavya, his daughter. The Opposition says the ad proves how little the government is in touch with the state’s farmers. “Does the chief minister have any concern? You can know the government’s true colours are looking at that ad,” says HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S). The government says it is looking into the matter. “We will take necessary steps to see that it is corrected if it is wrong,” says Chandra Gowda, a BJP MP.

The BJP on Tuesday withdrew a controversial advertisement with the picture of a farmer highlighting B S Yeddyurappa government’s achievements after it learnt that the farmer had committed suicide, and apologized to his family. The farmer in the ad had committed suicide, unable to repay his debts. B H Nagaraju, a native of Babaurayanakoppalu village, barely 3km from Srirangapatna, had killed himself on May 27, 2009. His family was shocked to see his face in the BJP’s poll ads. In the ad, Nagaraj, who holds sugarcane and a sickle, smilingly talks of his fortune changing after the BJP government took over in Karnataka. His family members claimed Nagaraju committed suicide after he was caught in a debt trap. He is survived by his parents, wife Lakshmi and children Bhavya and Umesh. His father Hanumegowda said his family did not own any land and his son was an agriculture labourer. His daily wages weren’t adequate to support the family.

The BJP issued the advertisement in a few Kannada dailies Sunday ahead of the Dec 26 and Dec 31 polls in 176 taluka (sub-district) and 30 zilla (district) panchayats. The enraged villagers and family members of Nagaraju, who is survived by his parents, wife and two children, are planning to block the Bangalore-Mysore highway Wednesday as the BJP has not apologized for the goof up. “We will stage a dharna on the Bangalore-Mysore highway on Wednesday as no one from the BJP has come to the village to apologise to Nagaraju’s family,” said B.S. Sandesh, former president of Srirangapatna taluka. The farmers staged a demonstration in Baburayanakopplu on the Mysore-Bangalore highway on Monday, protesting against the advertisement, and raised slogans denouncing the government.

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