Back in action for the first time after he sustained a hip fracture over a month ago, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar Thursday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, questioning his silence over the religious conversion row.
Without naming Modi, Pawar said: “Those who talk about improving the pace of development must take care to ensure the country is not divided on communal lines,” he said, adding the “newly coined ‘Ghar Wapsi’ term” was disturbing the country’s social fabric.
Making it clear that the NCP was no longer interested in offering any sort of support to the BJP-led government in Maharashtra, Pawar also took a swipe at the centre for taking the “ordinance route” to modify the Land Acquisition Act.
The previous UPA government (in which the NCP was a partner) had formed an all-party committee under current Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for recommendations on provisions of the Act before approving it. “Another panel headed by me was formed thereafter to coordinate with states on the Act’s provisions. Both panels had insisted that consent of 70 per cent farmers be made mandatory for acquisition of irrigated farm land,” he added. Using the ordinance route, the centre has now withdrawn this condition. “While using an executive fiat for legislations itself is not inappropriate, modifications to the Act ought to have been discussed in Parliament,” said Pawar.
He also criticised the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra over the sugarcane crisis and accused both the centre and the state of not taking proactive steps.
The sugar belt in western and southern Maharashtra is a strong NCP bastion. “When we (the UPA) were in power, the government would always take steps to ensure farmers were provided more than the fair and remunerative price for their cane produce. This government is struggling to ensure that even FRP is paid,” said the former Union agriculture minister.
He also advised the Modi government to restore export subsidy to sugar factories and provide Rs 600-700 per tonne as grant to cane producers. Cautioning that the cane crisis could aggravate, Pawar said over 50 per cent of the produce was yet to go into crushing.
He raised similar concerns regarding milk produce, cotton and horticultural crops such as grapes and pomegranates.