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Opposition, Shiv Sena to step up Maharashtra stir over farm crisis

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-05-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: It will be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) versus the rest in Maharashtra in the next couple of months with opposition parties and even ruling ally Shiv Sena planning to hit the streets on agricultural issues.

The fourth phase of opposition-sponsored sangharsha yatra (struggle march) begins on Monday in the Konkan region. The yatra has already covered Vidarbha, Marathwada, western Maharashtra and North Maharashtra in the previous three phases.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray too will launch the next phase of his Shiv Sampark Abhiyan on Monday.

The ruling BJP, meanwhile, plans to plans to conduct shivar samvad sabha its (farm dialogue meetings) from 24 to 28 May across the state.

ALSO READ : Maharashtra BJP chief ‘abuses’ farmers amid tur procurement mess

The opposition’s sangharsha yatra, originally launched to press for farm loan waiver, has grown into a united opposition movement against the BJP-led government on a number of issues. In addition to the sangharsha yatra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) plans to carry out a state-wide campaign in June and July to revive its power base, NCP state unit president Sunil Tatkare said.

In the first phase of Sena’s Shiv Sampark Abhiyan on 6 and 7 May, Thackeray spoke with farmers in Marathwada and asked Shiv Sena legislators to reach out to farmers in all Marathwada constituencies. A Shiv Sena functionary said in the next phases, Thackeray and Sena legislators will focus on other regions including Vidarbha where the Sena has not had much electoral success.

Thackeray “is talking to farmers and all legislators have been asked to draft reports on farmers’ concerns. This would help us build a better campaign and also make inroads in parts where we have been weak. He does not want the party cadres to keep waiting for next elections whenever they are held. He instead wants the cadres to remain battle-ready and not let the BJP gain an upper hand,” said the Sena functionary requesting anonymity.

The Shiv Sena leadership believes the party can improve upon its electoral performance in regions like Marathwada, North Maharashtra and Vidarbha if it is able to tap into the resentment among farmers, he said.

“The Congress-NCP may have launched sangharsha yatra but they still face the trust deficit. People and farmers have not forgotten their misrule of 15 years in Maharashtra. There is resentment against the BJP government but it has not reflected in the recent zilla parishad and municipal corporation polls. This is largely because chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has been setting the agenda to hide the incompetence of his colleagues. Our main rival is BJP and not Congress-NCP,” said a Sena strategist and legislator who did not wish to be named.

For its shivar samvad sabha, the BJP has geared up its entire party machinery to carry out this campaign that would focus on explaining to farmers the schemes launched by the centre and state government for farmers.

“From BJP MPs down to local councillors, around 4,000 elected representatives of the party will reach out to all villages in the state during these four days. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis himself will lead the campaign in Latur in Marathwada on May 25,” said a BJP press release.

The campaign has also been designed to coincide with the third anniversary of the Narendra Modi-led central government on 26 May. “We want to find out if there really is any traction for the loan waiver demand. If farmers really wanted loan waiver, that would have reflected in at least zilla parishad polls. But we won and yet the opposition claims that farmers want loan waiver. We need to ask the farmers directly as to what they feel,” said a state BJP functionary who requested anonymity.

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