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BJP ally SSS in Maharashtra sacks its minister Sadabhau Khot, likely to pull out of NDA

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-08-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally in Maharashtra and part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), on Monday expelled its leader and state minister Sadabhau Khot for “taking a position against the party’s official line”.

Dashrath Sawant, SSS functionary and chief of the disciplinary committee that the party set up to look into allegations of anti-party activities by Khot, told reporters in Pune that Khot is being expelled with immediate effect to maintain party discipline and image. Sawant said the SSS would also decide in a week whether it wanted to remain with the NDA or not.

Khot’s support for the state’s partial farm loan waiver—as against his party’s demand for a full waiver—as well as his backing for a BJP candidate in a local election had riled SSS.

Khot refused to react immediately to his expulsion. In Maharashtra’s legislative council, Khot is a member from the BJP quota which technically means he does not have to resign his membership. Sawant, however, said Khot was made a minister from the SSS quota and the party expected him to resign as minister.

Over the last six months, tension has been simmering between the BJP and the SSS over agrarian issues. Raju Shetty, SSS founder-president and MP from Hatkanangle in Maharashtra, has been demanding a blanket farm loan waiver and was part of the farmers’ stir in June this year. He has been raising farmers’ issues in the Lok Sabha as well and went to the extent of expressing his regrets over supporting Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate on the grounds that “the prime minister has let the farmers down”. Shetty has also been part of the farmers’ movement in Madhya Pradesh and was one of the participants at the farmers’ rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar grounds last month.

Apart from Shetty—the lone MP from his party—the SSS does not add much numerical strength to the BJP either in Maharashtra or at the Centre. In this context, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra faces no threat should SSS decide to leave the NDA. However, one section in the state BJP feels that if the SSS pulls out of the NDA, it would make a political statement of its own in the context of the farm discontent in Maharashtra and other states.

“The impact may not be in numbers but in the message it gives. Shetty has been with NDA since the 2014 general elections and if he leaves at this stage, it will make a bad statement for us. But his influence is limited to his constituency only,” said a state BJP functionary and farmers’ leader, requesting anonymity.

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