The Shiv Sena came out in full support of the striking farmers in Maharashtra and also aggressively participated in “Maharashtra Bandh” organised by various farmer groups on Monday, once again highlighting its strained relationship with the government and its actions. In fact, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, in a statement, described the Sainiks participating in the farmer strike as “beginning of the fight…” Like the Sena, the Swabhimani Paksha (SP) “actively” started taking part in the farmers’ strike from Monday. Both Sena and SP are part of the Fadnavis government in the state and both have been frequently displaying their unease in the BJP fold.
On Monday, not only did Sainiks participate actively in the bandh, they also resorted to road blockades in several parts of western Maharashtra and Marathwada. In Kolhapur, the Sainiks blocked the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway for half an hour and raised slogans against the government and in support of the farmers’ demand. Two MLAs and several other Sena leaders were detained and then released. The Swabhimani Paksha also stopped the functioning of a weekly bazaar in Kolhapur and held protests at several places in both Kolhapur and Sangli. A rally, led by party chief Raju Shetti, was taken out in Icharlkaranji. In Marathwada, too, the Sainiks aggressively participated in rasta rokos at various places in the eight districts of the region.
In Pune, Sena chief Vinayak Nimhan said though they did not participate in Monday’s bandh, they have already extended support to the farmers’ strike. “In next two-three days, we will decide about the kind of participation the Sena will have in the farmers’ strike,” Nimhan said.
Expressing his party’s support to the ongoing farmers’ strike and Monday’s Maharashtra bandh, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, “This is the beginning of the fight…Till the last demand of the striking farmers are met, the Sena will stand firmly behind the farmers.” Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, MP, made Uddhav’s statement public.
In the statement, Uddhav said, “The support that farmers’ strike is getting across Maharashtra has a lesson in it for the rulers. Farmers have hit the streets and the upsurge seen at some places should not been seen as violence, but should be looked at as hunger pangs felt by the farmers that have surfaced. Farmers who have participated in the strike in big numbers have displayed a unique example of unity.” Raut stated that the Sena chief has extended full support to the farmers’ strike.
The Sena stand has, however, not gone down well with the BJP, but the party has chosen to keep mum like it has done several times in the past. “There is nothing to say about this….,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari. ”The CM has already made it clear that the opposition, including the NCP and Congress, were behind the farmers’ strike. The Sena is not in the opposition and, therefore, the BJP doesn’t expect it to be part of the farmers’ strike. But if it chooses to do so, there is nothing new about the way it takes its stand..,” said a BJP leader.