Kerala Congress factions to peg their poll campaigns on rubber

As the Lok Sabha elections draw near, the key Kerala Congress factions have begun designing their campaign strategies around the ailing rubber plantations — the mainstay of central Travancore economy for long.

In a bid to ride this wave of rural distress, the Kerala Congress led by P.J. Joseph has charted out a campaign highlighting the continuing apathy of both the Union and State governments towards the rubber growers. The lapses in fixing the issues relating to the distribution of Rubber Production Incentive Scheme (RPIS), meanwhile, have handed it an additional opportunity to mount a fresh attack on its arch rival, the Kerala Congress (M).

Protest on Jan. 12

It has tailored a campaign that seeks to highlight the concerns of the rubber growers on the one hand and the inability of the KC(M), a key constituent of the Left Democratic Front government, in providing succour to the beleaguered community. As part of it, the party will stage a massive protest of rubber growers at Kaduthuruthy on January 12 and take out a long march of rubber growers to Kottayam the next day.

“Their efforts are directed towards sabotaging the RPIS scheme, a move that will put the rubber growers of Kerala in deep trouble,” says Mons Joseph, executive chairman, Kerala Congress.

The rival faction led by Jose K. Mani, meanwhile, has been working overtime to redirect the anger of rubber growers towards the Union government. Already in a bind over the remarks made by Minister for Culture Saji Cherian against Church heads, the party has been at the receiving end of criticism by the Catholic Church for its failure to protect the farmers’ interests.

‘Rectify policies’

“The Union government has failed to rectify the policies that have negatively impacted rubber prices. Despite the Union government receiving ₹7,800 crore from rubber imports, they have refused to allocate ₹500 crore towards the rubber price stabilisation fund,” pointed out Mr. Mani, while addressing the party State secretariat in Kottayam recently.

Keen to retain the Kottayam Lok Sabha seat, the party remains optimistic of the LDF government announcing a hike in the base price of sheet rubber under the RPIS scheme from ₹170 a kg to at least ₹190 prior to the announcement of the polls.

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