(Bhushan Koyande)
(Bhushan Koyande)

NCP chief Sharad Pawar slams Maha governor, Centre at farmers’ rally in Mumbai

Pawar took on governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for not meeting the agitating farmers, saying that the latter had time to meet actor Kangana Ranaut, but not farmers
By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 26, 2021 12:30 AM IST

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday slammed the Centre as well as the Maharashtra governor over their behaviour towards farmers as thousands of them from across the state protested against the Centre’s contentious new farm laws at Azad Maidan in Mumbai.

Pawar took on governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for not meeting the agitating farmers, saying that the latter had time to meet actor Kangana Ranaut, but not farmers. Later, farmers’ leaders, who led a march towards Raj Bhavan but were stopped by the police, tore off their memorandum after they were told that the governor was out of town and they could submit their demands to Raj Bhavan officials. The new agri laws seek to encourage private trade, contract farming and remove stock limit on foodgrains. The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of minimum support price (MSP) and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

At least a dozen key leaders from the ruling NCP and Congress stood in support and solidarity with the protesting farmers, while Shiv Sena sent its junior youth wing leader as its representative. Eyebrows were raised over the stand by the Sena led by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray later said the party fully supported farmers in their agitation.

Addressing the farmers at Azad Maidan, Pawar said during his stint as Union agriculture minister in 2003, the UPA government had deliberated on the farm laws by convening three meetings with the agriculture ministers of states, but could not build a consensus over the contents. “The BJP-led NDA passed the laws without any discussion in parliament and in just one day on the basis of the majority. The Modi government has attempted to uproot the farmers through these laws, but the farmers have the power to uproot political leaders who have been acting arrogantly,” Pawar said.

He said the laws were passed by crushing the constitution of the country. “The ruling party did not follow parliamentary customs, while passing the laws and undermining the power of the common man. The common man of the country can crush these laws and politicians too.”

Pawar, in his speech slammed Koshyari, saying, “He has time to meet Kangana (Ranaut), but not for the farmers. It was the ethical responsibility of the governor to meet the agitating farmers and face their delegation. He should have stayed back at the Raj Bhavan, but he has no etiquette. He is a one-off governor in the history of Maharashtra,” he said.

Raj Bhavan, however, said it had clarified to the organisers of the farmers’ protest that the governor would not be available on Monday as he was away in Goa for his address to the first session of Goa legislature. “He holds additional charge as Goa governor. The leaders of Samyukt Shetkari Morcha were informed on Sunday that the honourable governor will not be able to meet the delegation,” the clarification stated.

After the rally, the farmers marched towards Raj Bhavan to meet the governor, but they were stopped by the police near Metro theatre. The police offered to allow a delegation of the farmers to meet Raj Bhavan officials to submit their memorandum. However, leaders of the farmers outfits refused to meet Raj Bhavan officials in the absence of the governor and tore off their memorandum that they were going to hand over to Koshyari. The farmers returned to Azad Maidan and will return to their villages on Tuesday after hoisting a flag on the occasion of Republic Day at the same venue.

Besides the ruling parties, Samajwadi Party, all left parties, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and many social outfits and labour unions extended their support to the farmers’ protest in Mumbai. Besides Pawar, NCP leaders and state minister Jitendra Avhad, former party legislator Vidya Chavan, Congress’s state unit chief and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, state minister Sunil Kedar, former minister Arif Naseem Khan, Mumbai Congress chief Bhai Jagtap participated in the public rally on Monday at Azad Maidan in Mumbai.

Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said the laws were passed by suspending the MPs who were demanding discussions on the bills. “The laws have no provision of minimum support price, will lead to the abolition of agriculture produce market committees, thrashing the system of public distribution and will benefit capitalists, stockists,” he said.

Absence of the Sena leaders was conspicuous and led to a debate over the party’s stand on the farm laws. Shiv Sena leader and state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray said that his party supports the farmers. “Our leader Sharad Pawar attended the rally, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced his support. There are limitations in attending the public gathering in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we have extended our full support to the farmers,” he said.

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