Outspoken BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondia constituency Nana Patole, who recently hit headlines for saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t like being questioned, Sunday said he had sensed discontent among farmers over the central and state governments’ policies, and that “was the only reason” he spoke about farmers’ problems on Friday, when the media quoted him “out of context”.
“My caste is farmer and my religion is farming. I don’t belong to a political family like the CM, whose father was a politician too. I don’t go by conventional wisdom and rules of political correctness when it comes to farmers’ interests. I am not looking for any political gain when it comes to farmers’ interests. And that’s why I spoke elaborately about what dogs the farming sector at Friday’s programme. You in the media didn’t report it in perspective,” Patole told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Patole had said that the PM wasn’t used to taking questions and had asked him to shut up at a party MPs’ meeting where he had raised farmers’ issues. Asked if his being the only big leader in the party to have spoken against the PM and the CM showed there was little internal democracy within the BJP, Patole said, “I would repeat I didn’t say anything against the PM. I only said the PM has a certain style of functioning. But none can deny him the authority to do things according to his own way and even reprimand anyone. That I am able to speak my mind shows there is internal democracy in the party.”
Asked if his statement could be seen as anti-party activity, Patole said, “I have not spoken against my party. I have spoken about years of neglect of farmers by all governments. How can raising farmers’ concerns be termed anti-party activity? Thousands of people came to meet me after you wrote about me. They said I had taken the right stand. I can tell you that farmers are experiencing a torrid time, particularly due to that online application process for loan waiver. When they are going to banks for the Rs 10,000 interim aid, no banks are giving them the money. In the past few days, the government has issued 12 different GRs, causing confusion. I am unable to understand why things are not moving.”
Patole, three-time Congress legislator before joining the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and winning it against NCP’s Praful Patel, drew attention to the paddy cultivation in his constituency being in trouble due to scanty rainfall this season. “The state government says about 75 per cent of transplantation is complete. But I doubt it. So, I am starting my own survey,” he said.
Patole said he hadn’t received any call from Modi or BJP president Amit Shah. “I got a call from state BJP president Raosaheb Danve. He said he will take me to Modi and Shah to discuss all the issues with them. I will explain my position to them,” Patole said.
But he stressed that agriculture was a state subject, and hence the state government had to solve the problems. When pointed out that the Centre, too, had a major role to play due to export-import and the fixing of the minimum support price, and that Modi had promised an MSP with 50 per cent more payment to farmers before the polls, Patole said, “I have raised the MSP issue in Parliament too without any inhibition.”
Patole dismissed talk of him quitting the BJP. “I am not going anywhere. Even when I was in the Congress, I was known for my pro-people stand. This is nothing new.”
A strong votary of Vidarbha statehood, Patole had caused consternation to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last year, when he had introduced a Private Member’s Bill on a separate Vidarbha in Parliament. The Opposition in Maharashtra had grilled Fadnavis, himself a vocal statehood proponent when in the opposition, by asking him to spell out his stand on Patole’s Bill.
Last year, Patole had also caused a stir by openly criticising the state government for the disappearance of popular tiger Jai. Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had sent a special probe team to Patole — who had claimed that he had knowledge about the case — to get his version of the story. Jai, however, was never traced.