Maharashtra: Days after farmers’ long march, Congress leader says rally was ‘state sponsored’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-farmers-long-march-congress-state-sponsored-5107921/

Maharashtra: Days after farmers’ long march, Congress leader says rally was ‘state sponsored’

Congress legislator Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, on Thursday hinted that there was an understanding between the BJP and the CPI(M)’s Kisan Sabha over the rally.

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Farmers long march moving from Mulund towards Mumbai. (Express photo by Deepak Joshi/Files)

At a time when former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is making serious attempts at building a formidable anti-BJP front, a senior Congress leader from Maharashtra on Thursday cast serious aspersions on the successful farmers’ long march, which was led by the Communist Party of India’s peasants wing — the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) — earlier this month.

Congress legislator Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, on Thursday hinted that there was an understanding between the BJP and the CPI(M)’s Kisan Sabha over the rally.

More than 25,000 farmers had marched under AIKS’s banner from Nashik to Mumbai against the “anti-farmer” policies of the Maharashtra government and the Centre between March 6 and March 12. The protest march had ended with the Devendra Fadnavis government inviting the farmers’ representatives for talks after the marchers reached Mumbai. Special trains were arranged by the government for the participating farmers on their way back.

Firing a salvo at the AIKS-led protest, Vikhe-Patil, however, alleged that the “protest rally was state sponsored”.

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During a discussion on law and order issues in Maharashtra in the Legislative Assembly, Vikhe-Patil, a former Maharashtra agriculture minister, further alleged that the rally and the talks held between the government side and protesters were aimed at depriving the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party — which are the main Opposition parties in Maharashtra — the political credit for raising farmers’ welfare issues.

“We (the Congress) have led several protest rallies over the last three years over farmers’ unrest. The NCP, too, has been holding Halla Bol morchas. But the government chose not to invite us for talks since it did not want us to derive political mileage for raising valid issues,” said Vikhe-Patil, alleging the government attempted to divert the political credit to others (read CPI (M)) with the latest farmer’s march.

Meanwhile, while hitting out at the Fadnavis government over the “deteriorating” law and order situation in Maharashtra, Vikhe-Patil alleged that a serving minister from Vidarbha was actively sheltering an active gang of criminals — Mandi Toli — in the region. He further alleged that close aides of another minister were indulging in “extortion” and “criminal activities” near Mumbai. With the Chief Minister himself heading the Home department, the Opposition minced no words in the criticism of the department.

Echoing Vikhe-Patil’s accusation that the government machinery was “sheltering criminal elements”, NCP’s Ajit Pawar, a former Maharashtra deputy chief minister, alleged that three ruling party MLAs had visited the flat where assistant police inspector Ashwini Bidre-Gore was murdered in Navi Mumbai. The Navi Mumbai crime branch has arrested a police inspector attached to the Thane (rural) police, Abhay Kurundkar, and three others, including BJP legislator Eknath Khadse’s nephew, Raju Patil. Pawar on Thursday demanded that the role of the “three MLAs” be probed as well.

During the discussion, Vikhe-Patil also accused the Fadnavis government of “going out of its way” to indicate that Judge Loya’s death case wasn’t suspicious. “My information is that the government used private chartered planes for flying senior lawyers in the case,” he said. He also raised questions over the police machinery over the Bhima Koregaon violence, and the police’s “failure of solving” the daylight murders of rationalist leader Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Pawar, meanwhile, alleged that the crime was on the rise in the BJP regime.