The Shiv Sena on Wednesday boycotted a cabinet meeting to display its solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ strike exposing the cracks within the coalition government in Maharashtra. The party has also queered the pitch arguing there should be a complete loan waiver for farmers.
The Shiv Sena is reportedly upset as it fears the loan waiver declared by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis would help the BJP walk away with the credit and in turn prove detrimental to them in the upcoming elections. Therefore, the boycott is to mount pressure on the BJP to give Sena the credit for the loan waiver.
The Shiv Sena ministers in the morning met Fadnavis to convey their inability to attend the meeting. The reason cited was Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray was on a holiday abroad. As a result, the strategy of the party will have to be discussed and future course of action will be taken after his arrival and meeting with the party leaders. Fadnavis gave the Sena ministers permission to skip the cabinet reckoning it is a separate political party and they have the right to take an independent call.
Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “The Shiv Sena has not boycotted the cabinet. They sought permission from the chief minister to skip the meeting.” We will take the Sena in confidence and consult on loan waiver as was done during the Goods and Services Tax, he added.
A senior Sena minister requesting anonymity told Indian Express, “We were all set to participate in the cabinet meeting. But we realised there is a Nashik band call which will see the participation of our local leaders. If we had taken part in the cabinet meeting it would blunt our support to the farmers cause.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “The ministers have boycotted the cabinet meeting as we demand complete loan waiver for farmers.” The BJP leadership is unfazed with the development arguing, “ If Sena were to withdraw support, they have various options to keep the government intact. And they are also all ready to go for elections if the situation arises.” The BJP is not ruling out the possibility of mid-term polls.
A political managers in the BJP said, “This is not the first time Sena has thrown tantrums. Whenever they are on backfoot, they indulge in act to embarrass the government. But by now the people can see the double standards of the Sena.”
However, a Sena leader explained, “We believe the loan waiver should be for all the farmers and not just confined to small and marginal ones.” The Sena’s demand is being dismissed as non-practical by cabinet ministers as well as political rivals Congress and NCP. Both Congress and NCP’s demand for loan waiver was also limited to the debt-ridden 31 lakh farmers small and marginal who did not have access to the fresh crop loan.
All the states leading with Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have also given loan waiver to the small and marginal farmers. In Maharashtra, there are a total of 1.36 crore farmers of which 31 lakh are debt-ridden and out of institutional credit bracket since the year 2012 (during Congress-NCP government). The numbers will now increase up to 40 lakh farmers.
While the loan waiver to 40 lakh farmers works out to Rs 30000 crore, if government were to consider the Sena demand for loan waiver for 1.36 crore farmers (including rich and prosperous) the waiver would shoot up to Rs 1.14 lakh crore.