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Uddhav Thackeray to tour Marathwada in a bid to revise Sena’s strategy on farm issues

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-05-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday dared the Bharatiya Janata Party to hold mid-term polls in Maharashtra. “Why hold mid-term polls tomorrow? Hold them today if you will. Shiv Sena is prepared to face them,” Thackeray said addressing the newly elected Shiv Sena corporators in Mumbai at a training workshop. He reiterated the Sena claim that it had emerged the single largest party in Mumbai polls despite BJP’s use of money and “EVM scam”.

Thackeray also attacked the BJP for its plans to expand the party across India. “Instead of strengthening the BJP, strengthen the nation. Pakistan is not going to learn from one surgical strike. We need to enter Pakistan and attack it,” Thackeray said, attacking the Narendra Modi government over the beheading of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control with Pakistan two days back.

In a bid to boost the morale of cadres and reposition the Shiv Sena as the de facto opposition party in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya would engage with party leaders, legislators, and workers in Marathwada region on 6 and 7 May.

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Thackeray’s Marathwada outreach is significant in the wake of Shiv Sena’s poor performance in recent municipal and zilla parishad (district bodies) polls in the region. Marathwada is also one of the two regions apart from Vidarbha where the agrarian crisis is particularly severe. Thackeray’s spokesperson Harshal Pradhan said the Shiv Sena chief would speak to the party functionaries and cadres on farmers’ issues. “This is a regular Shiv Sampark Abhiyan (Shiv contact campaign) during which Uddhavji will hold meetings with party cadres, functionaries, legislators, and MPs, and get familiar with the ground reality on farm issues,” Pradhan said.

Shiv Sena functionaries say Thackeray’s visit would be important as it would help the party leadership revise its strategy on farm issues in Maharashtra. “There is a growing sense among legislators and party organisation that we have allowed opposition parties to take the lead on farm issues, especially loan waiver. We should have hit the streets before Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. Uddhavji’s visit is important because we will try to present the severity of agrarian crisis before him and stress the need for the party to be more aggressive against the BJP on this,” said a Shiv Sena legislator and minister from Marathwada requesting anonymity.

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The Shiv Sena leadership has shown signs that the opposition’s offensive on farm debt-waiver issue has put pressure on the party. Before the opposition parties launched their state-wide ‘Sangharsha Yatra (struggle march) on 29 March to mobilize farmers’ support for loan waiver, the Sena had assumed the role of a de facto opposition party despite being a Bharatiya Janata Party ally in government. In fact, Shiv Sena was the first political party in Maharashtra which called for a farm loan waiver in the state soon after the BJP promised it in Uttar Pradesh elections. After the BJP won the UP elections and fulfilled this promise, the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra have, however, hijacked the issue from the Sena. “The response to Sangharsha Yatra is proof that farmers are in favour of loan waiver. If at all the state government is forced to waive off farm loans, the opposition will rightly claim the credit. We failed to hit the ground in time,” admitted the Sena minister.

Thackeray’s Marathwada visit comes in the wake of Sena’s poor show in the zilla parishad and municipal corporation polls in Marathwada. In these polls conducted in February and April, Shiv Sena’s numbers have actually gone down in Latur, Beed, and Parbhani even though the party leadership had campaigned heavily on the issue of drought in 2015-16. In Latur, the BJP won both the zilla parishad and municipal corporation polls while the Congress and NCP made impressive gains in Parbhani and Beed. In all these cities, Shiv Sena failed to hold on its 2012 tally.

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