Back-channel negotiations with ally Shiv Sena ensure passage of farm reform Bill

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Published:August 4, 2016 1:21 am
maharashtra, apmc, apmc bill, farmers, maharashtra farmers, apmc traders, bjp, shiv sena, maharashtra shiv sena, shiv sena apmc, maharashtra legislative council, devendra fadnavis, maharashtra givernment, maharasthra news Farmers, until now, had to compulsorily sell vegetables and fruits through APMCs.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) move to permit farmers to sell their produce outside the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets in the state almost ran into trouble when ally Shiv Sena opposed a Bill to enable this Wednesday. Eventually, it took major backdoor negotiations and cajoling for the BJP to get its ally on board and pass the Bill in the Assembly. With both the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the Opposition dead set against the government’s move, the BJP would not have secured passage of the crucial Bill without Shiv Sena’s support.

Arguing that farmers were often exploited by traders in the APMC by making them pay a commission to buy their produce and forcing them to pay various charges, the government has said that the additional option permitting the farmers to sell the produce outside APMC would end this monopoly by traders. It had further argued that the decision will also benefit the consumer by bringing down retail prices of farm commodities.

But the Shiv Sena put a spanner in the plan when party legislator from Nashik’s Niphad assembly constituency, Anil Kadam, rose to inform the House that the Shiv Sena was opposed to the provisions of the Bill. “I’m opposing the Bill for now on behalf of my party,” Kadam said. The Shiv Sena’s major objection was that the support infrastructure for permitting the alternate sale route had not yet been put in place, and that it would be inappropriate to dismantle the APMC set-up at this stage.

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Sensing that the game was slipping, senior BJP ministers including Chandrakant Patil, Subhash Deshmukh, and Girish Bapat, held hectic backdoor talks with their Shiv Sena counterparts Ramdas Kadam, Gulabrao Patil, and Arjun Khotkar on the issue. The Shiv Sena finally agreed not to oppose the Bill after the BJP gave an assurance that the amendments suggested by Sena members will be accommodated before implementation of the move.

The Shiv Sena’s initial opposition had raised the Opposition’s hope of isolating the BJP and blocking the Bill’ passage in the Assembly. NCP’s Ajit Pawar had moved a motion that the Bill be referred to a Joint Select Committee comprising members from both houses of the legislature. It would have also been a shot in the arm for the Opposition, which has made several bids to pin the government during the ongoing monsoon session.

On the floor of the House, the Opposition even demanded a poll when the bill was put up for approval after a marathon debate. But this demand was turned down. Minister of State (Agriculture) Sadabhau Khot announced that a committee comprising all stakeholders would be constituted for finalising the modalities for the implementation. He said amendments suggested by members of the House would also be taken into consideration. The government later passed another Bill for rescinding 64 outdated legislations in the assembly.

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