A delegation of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP’s ally in Punjab that quit the alliance protesting the farm Bills, met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Sunday to secure Shiv Sena’s support for the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
The meeting took place at the CM’s official bungalow Varsha in Mumbai. The Akali team was led by its vice president and MP, Prem Singh Chandumajra.
“Uddhav Thackeray has assured us that the Shiv Sena will support all the programmes pursued in the interest of farmers. The Maharashtra CM also promised to come to Delhi and attend a coordination committee two weeks later to draw up a future plan,” said Chandumajra.
Akali Dal veteran Parkash Singh Badal will lead the coordination committee. Ahead of its meeting, SAD leaders were meeting several regional political parties across states to seek their support. High on their agenda is a meeting with NCP president Sharad Pawar, too.
Indeed, before the Sena-Akali meeting, NCP veteran and former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, accompanied by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Social Welfare minister Dhananjay Munde, met Shiv Sena (MP) Sanjay Raut at his Bhandup residence.
Said Sharad Pawar: “When farmers from Punjab and Haryana take to protest in the streets, the Centre should have taken it seriously. Unfortunately, it was not tackled with the required urgency to defuse the protest at the very beginning,” he said.
Underlining the crucial significance of Punjab and Haryana as the two states which provide “rice and wheat on a large scale” to the country and play a key role in foodgrain exports to many countries, Pawar said: “The role of Punjab and Haryana is immense. Any unrest in these states does not augur well for nation. As the unrest is not going to be restricted to Delhi…it has the danger of spilling all over country.”
Maharashtra is among the non BJP-ruled states which has refused to implement the three Central laws. But its response has been marked by confusion.
In the Lok Sabha, the Sena had supported the Bills but its members expressed reservations and abstained from voting in Rajya Sabha. Unlike in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers took to streets backed by political parties including the Congress and Akali Dal, in Maharashtra leaders have been more cautious.
Initially, the response from various farmers’ organisations was lukewarm with little unanimity among various groups. Significantly, this was reflected in the coalition’s response as well with Maharashtra being the first state to implement the ordinance before these Bills were passed in Parliament.
Deputy Chief Minister and NCP’s Ajit Pawar was upset and the ordinance was withdrawn attributing it to “bureaucratic bungling.”
However, Congress and NCP in Maharashtra are now determined not to accept these three laws. “Maharashtra has over 302 APMCs. Any attempt to implement these would make these redundant,” said a senior Minister.
Then there is politics, too. The Congress and NCP have a stronghold on APMCs and will resist any erosion of these.
“Where will small and marginal farmers go to sell their crop?” said the Minister. “The nearby APMC provides them an assured market and income based on real-time market rates. In the absence of APMCs, the small and marginal farmers, who constitute 78 per cent of the 1.56 crore farmers in Maharashtra, will become vulnerable to traders and big-business owners,” said the Minister.