Fadnavis skips controversial Sillod agri festival, raises eyebrows
The festival was at the centre of a controversy due to allegations that agriculture minister Abdul Satta had ordered agriculture officers to collect funds for the five-day festival from seed and fertiliser traders and dealers
Mumbai: Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s conspicuous absence from the inauguration ceremony of the Sillod agriculture festival organised by agriculture minister Abdul Sattar has raised eyebrows in political circles. The festival was at the centre of a controversy due to allegations that the minister had ordered agriculture officers to collect funds for the five-day festival from seed and fertiliser traders and dealers.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Sunday inaugurated the festival, which has dozens of stalls related to agricultural products, equipment and technology. Fadnavis, who was supposed to be part of the inauguration and was seen on the posters of the festival along with Shinde, reportedly kept a safe distance from Sattar by remaining absent.
The festival being held in Sattar’s constituency has been mired in controversy after allegations by the Opposition that the minister had coerced his department’s officers to collect funds by selling entry passes to the festival and the cultural programmes organised on its sidelines. During the legislature’s winter session, the Opposition had come down heavily on Sattar and the Shinde-Fadnavis government on this score, and clamoured for the minister’s resignation.
Unhappy about the controversy, Fadnavis announced in the assembly that he had taken serious note of the allegations, and strict action would be taken. According to insiders in the government, the deputy chief minister was not happy with Sattar’s compelling officers to collect money, as it dented the image of the government.
But while Fadnavis’s absence is being linked with the controversy, leaders from the ruling combine pointed out that other key BJP leaders were present at the festival. Union minister of state for finance Bhagwat Karad, Union minister of state for railways Raosaheb Danve and state cooperation minister Atul Save attended the inauguration function.
“The party’s national president J P Nadda is in Maharashtra to hold rallies in Chandrapur and Aurangabad, meet BJP office-bearers and hold review meetings ahead of the Lok Sabha polls,” said BJP state vice-president Madhav Bhandari. “Fadnavis is busy with all this. Other BJP leaders and ministers attended the launch of the festival. It shows that there are no internal differences in the ruling coalition.”
Apart from the differences within the ruling combine, the uneasiness within the individual ruling parties—BJP and Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena—has come to the fore in the last two days. BJP leader and national secretary Pankaja Munde and her MP sister, Pritam, stayed away from a function organised on Saturday in their home district Beed. The de-addiction programme was organised by the late Vinayak Mete-founded Shiv Sangram and was attended by Fadnavis and BJP state unit chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule. The Mundes are reportedly unhappy with the state leadership for sidelining them.
The rifts within the chief minister-led Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, on the other hand, came into the open with Sattar’s remarks on Saturday that his party colleagues were behind the controversies related to him. Sattar on Sunday said that he had complained to the CM about his ‘internal rivals’.