Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Maharashtra Oppn., allies close ranks to isolate BJP

Thousands of marching farmers reach Mumbai

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the main target on Sunday, as Opposition parties and BJP allies extended support to thousands of protesting farmers and tribals, who entered the city via Mulund late on Saturday.

The farmers plan to march to the State Legislature complex on Monday. They, however, remained undecided on entering south Mumbai in the pre-dawn hours of Monday.

The Kisan Morcha, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), received support from the ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the Aam Adami Party (AAP), who have come together to extend support to the Left-aligned AIKS. Ashok Dhawale, national secretary, AIKS, said, “We are a mass organisation, not a political party. We wouldn’t mind any party supporting our demands. At the same time, this march has put farmers’ issues on the forefront, and every political party had to take a note of it.”

‘Take cognisance’

An AIKS spokesperson said the Kisan Morcha has forced the government to take cognisance of farmer issues.

Lok Sabha MP and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Chavan said, “Congress supports the farmers in their struggle for their legitimate demands. The Chief Minister must not be stubborn and be ready for discussions and accept the demands.”

Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, who visited the protesting farmers on Sunday, said, “I promise you today, every Shiv Sainik will support this movement in every way possible. No matter what our [political] colour, we are from the land. Despite being from different parties, our demands are the same.” He added that the Sena doesn’t believe in karz maafi (loan waiver), but in karz mukti (being loan-free).

“Uddhav Thackeray has sent me to assure you that we support your cause, and will stand shoulder to shoulder fighting for your rights.”

NCP State president Sunil Tatkare reassured the farmers of party chief Sharad Pawar’s interest in their welfare. “We completely support the farmers’ march. We had organised a Halla Bol rally to press for farmers’ rights, but this government didn’t listen.”

AAP too joined the march on Sunday, saying the government shouldn’t have waited till the very end to initiate talks with farmers. “The farmers have walked for over 200 km. Had the government really wanted to solve the issues, it should have initiated discussions much earlier. We condemn the government’s behaviour,” Dhananjay Shinde, spokesperson, AAP, said.

Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said his party stands firmly with the farmers. “We’ll ensure that the government takes cognisance. Calling farmers for a meeting is an afterthought by this government.” He said all demands will be raised by the Congress in the Assembly.

Politicians join

As the farmers wound their way through the city, politicians from several parties joined them in support. While PWD Minister Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena met farmers at Mulund, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad met them at Bhandup.

The farmers received a warm welcome from people. Supporters of the Left-affiliated CITU Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh welcomed the protesters and joined them.


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