Karnataka Agricultural Marketing Minister Shivanand Patil courted controversy on Monday after he said that farmers wish for repeated droughts so that they can get loan waiver benefits, reported The Hindu.

“The waters of the Krishna are freely available for irrigation and power supply for irrigation pumpsets is free too,” Patil said at an event in Belagavi. “Due to drought, the chief minister has distributed seeds and fertilisers free of cost. Now, farmers wish for repeated droughts so that they can get their loans waived. But that is not right. We should not think in that manner.”

He added that climatic conditions are such that even if one does not wish for it, there will be a drought once every three to four years but the government helps farmers during a crisis.

The Congress leader said that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah offered to waive off interest for medium term loans this year due to droughts.

“But we should understand that the government can help farmers only during a crisis, not at all times,” he said. “No government can be of any help, in fact. If we all understand this and develop a vision for the future, it will be good for everyone.”

The remarks have drawn sharp reactions from the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the state and farmers organisations.

Krishik Samaj leader Sidagouda Modagi said that the minister’s statements hurt and insulted the farming community. The farmers leader said Patil seems to have forgotten that he is a farmer first and then a politician and a minister.

“What he is saying is the prejudice carried by most of the urban elite who think that farmers are living on the government largesse funded at the taxpayer’s expense,” he said. “Mr. Patil, coming from a farm family in rural north Karnataka should not speak like this and add to the prejudice of the rich city dwellers.”

He added that the ground reality of farmers is harsh as they have to deal with middlemen, loan sharks, climate change and erratic monsoons.

Karnataka BJP president BY Vijayendra also hit out at the Congress leader, saying that he insulted farmers and must apologise for his statement.

Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly R Ashok demanded Patil’s dismissal from the Cabinet for his remarks.

Ashok said that Patil had earlier ridiculed farmers who die by suicide because they are unable to bear the burden of loans, reported The Hindu. “His statements are highly deplorable,” the BJP leader said. “He has no right to remain in the cabinet.”