As Nashik prepares for the first public rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Swabhimani Shetkari Saghtana (SSS) MP Raju Shetti, whose party is contesting the October 15 state Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP, says the policies of the central government will cost the BJP heavily in the onion belt where the saffron combine had won all the three parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.
Since the Lok Sabha elections, prices of onion had soared due to shortage. To control the prices, the central government had twice increased the minimum export price (MEP) and also announced import of onion from other countries. Onion prices had peaked in the national capital, which prompted the central government to resort to these measures, which in turn brought the wholesale and retail prices down again.
However, onion farmers now complain of a steep decrease in prices of their produce, which they say has resulted in financial hardships for them. At present, farmers are forced to sell their produce at Rs 10-12 per kg, which they sold at Rs 30 per kg a few months ago.
A few days back, the farmers in Nashik had even organised a demonstration in which they burnt an effigy of Union Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh. SSS members were also present during the agitation.
Speaking about the crisis, Shetti alleged that the central government was intentionally going soft on the NCP-backed onion traders who were responsible for reducing the price in the wholesale markets. “I had written to the prime minister and the agriculture minister, asking them not to raise the MEP as it was not beneficial for the farmers. Also, when the question of procuring onions for Delhi came up, I had asked them to buy it from farmers in Maharashtra. But the government refused to listen to me. During my talks with BJP leaders, I had warned them they would have to pay for it politically, but nothing happened,” he said.
Shetti, who will not be attending the PM’s rally on Sunday, said the BJP would fail to make any electoral inroads in the onion belt.
Of the 20 MLAs from Nashik district, BJP has just one at present. Both Shiv Sena and MNS have three MLAs each. Of the four MLAs from Dule, BJP has just one.
Deepak Pagar, who heads north Maharashtra wing of the SSS, said this region would see a sharp decline in voting percentage during the Assembly polls. “During the Lok Sabha elections the voting percentage had crossed 70, but this time it will go down. Farmers are very angry with the BJP and they are unlikely to come out and vote,” he said. “We had high hopes from the Modi government that they would bring out a mechanism of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for onion, but they have not done it,” he said.