MINISTER of State for Agriculture and Marketing Sadashiv Khot was expelled from the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana on Monday. “The minister’s moral turpitude and lack of sincerity towards the cause of farmers were the main reasons behind his expulsion from the sanghatana,” said Dasarath Sawant, chairman of the special committee formed to investigate the allegations against Khot, while addressing the media here.
The farmers’ body is also set to take a final call on remaining in the NDA in the next few days. Amid growing clamour from party members, the state executive of the sanghatana had formed a special committee to look into the complaints against Khot. Headed by Sawant, the committee included Prakash Pophale, president of the sanghatana, Ravikant Tupkar and Satish Kakade.
Khot himself had appeared before the committee in July to present his case. While speaking to the media, he had dropped broad hints about his decision to go on a statewide outreach campaign to discuss agrarian issues, a precursor for him to chart a separate political future for himself.
Sawant accused Khot of not being sincere to the issues related to farmers. “We had asked 23 questions to Khot and he has taken refuge in technicalities to evade direct replies,” he claimed. Sawant drew attention to the minister’s reply regarding the failure of the state government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission on fixing recoveries at 1.5 times the input cost. “Sadabhau said the matter falls in the jurisdiction of the Centre. By taking refuge in technicalities, it shows Khot had paid lip-service to the cause of farmers,” he said.
There were also allegations of moral turpitude against Khot. Without getting into the details, Sawant said questions were raised in the Assembly. Such incidents undermined the movement and harmed it, he added. Also, Khot’s role in trying to scuttle the farmers’ strike in June also led to his dismissal.
However, when asked if the farmers’ body will seek Khot’s resignation or communicate to the BJP the expulsion decision, Sawant replied in the negative. “The executive committee will meet in the next few days and along with the question of whether to stay in the NDA, a decision on this will also be taken,” he said, adding there were chances of their request going unheeded. Despite repeated attempts, Khot was not available for comment.
Khot’s relationship with the sanghatana and its leader MP Raju Shetti goes back to the nascent days of the movement. Shetti had decided to part ways with legendary farmer leader Sharad Joshi in the 1990s over the latter’s decision to support the BJP. Shetti had gone ahead to form the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, which has a strong presence in the sugarcane belt of Western Maharashtra.
In the farmers’ body, Khot was given the nickname ‘Muluk Maidan Tof’ (The biggest cannon of the battlefield) and was Shetti’s most-trusted lieutenant. Back in 2014, Khot had contested against Vijaysingh Mohite-Patil from the Madha parliamentary seat in Solapur, losing by a slender margin. The Shetti-Khot pair fitted the caste equations in Western Maharashtra as Khot belonged to the majority Maratha community, while Shetti was a Jain. Many say Khot being a Maratha had delayed action against him.
The relationship between Khot and Shetti started deteriorating after the recent local body elections, which saw Khot’s son Sagar contesting the polls in Sangli. Also Khot’s growing proximity with the BJP had not gone down well with the farmers’ body.