Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Saturday vowed to restore peace in the state as he started his indefinite fast in Bhopal’s Dussehra Maidan. Chouhan chose this venue purportedly so that those with grievances can come address him directly. He met a few farmers late in the afternoon, reported The Indian Express.

Chouhan acknowledged the importance of the farmers in the state’s progress and said, “More than 65 per cent of our population is dependent on farming. The state can’t progress without farmers,” ANI quoted him as saying.

As the farmers in Madhya Pradesh continued to stage violent protests for loan waivers and fair prices, Chouhan assured them that the government will provide the right and profitable price for their produce. “Our government will never lag behind in giving farmers the right and profitable price for their produce,” the CM was quoted as saying.

Chouhan had promised a loan settlement scheme for defaulters, and also announced a new commission to fix a formula to ensure fair prices for their produce. Singh had also given orders to immediately constitute a Rs 1,000-crore price stabilisation fund.

Earlier in the day, N Mishra, one of Chouhan’s ministers, expressed support to the chief minister. “We are with you and feel for you,” Mishra told ANI. “We are sitting on the ground, please come and discuss your problems with us.”

Meanwhile, the Congress also started a protest in Bhopal, reported The Indian Express. Party leaders accused Chouhan of staging a political drama to gain people’s sympathy. “I do not understand that instead of maintaining law and order, which was their responsibility, they fired on farmers,” Congress leader Jeetu Patwari told ANI. “The chief minister is doing these kinds of gimmicks to gain the people’s sympathy.”

Patwari said Chouhan should have held talks with the farmers’ organisations instead of going on an indefinite fast. “Whenever it is anything, BJP leaders start doing dramas. The CM should have talked to all the farmers’ organisations and thought about how this protest could have been calmed down,” he said.

Chouhan was described as ‘Arvind Kejriwal Part 2’ by Congress leader Mukesh Naik, who blamed him for making the situation worse. “Being in a supreme position in Madhya Pradesh, the chief minister should face the situation, think about the resolution, interact with the victims. Protestors are already facing a severe farmers’ agitation,” Naik told ANI.

Farmers in Madhya Pradesh have been protesting for more than week. At least five of them were killed in Mandsaur when police fired in an effort to quell the protests. On Friday, residents of the Badavan village alleged that one more farmer had died after an assault by police officials. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was briefly arrested for attempting to visit Mandsaur on Thursday.