NCP leader Sharad Pawar and ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Jitendra Awhad, along with other leaders, at the protest site. (Bhushan Koyande/HT)
NCP leader Sharad Pawar and ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Jitendra Awhad, along with other leaders, at the protest site. (Bhushan Koyande/HT)

Senior Shiv Sena leaders, ministers didn’t attend farmers’ protest in Mumbai

While Sena said it didn’t want to break Covid-19 rules, its senior leaders were at an inauguration in Kalyan where scores had gathered
PUBLISHED ON JAN 26, 2021 12:48 AM IST

Even as senior leaders of the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, joined the farmers’ protest at Azad Maidan on Monday, the Sena merely extended token support by sending Rahul Londhe, its youth wing functionary, as the party’s representative.

Backing the farmers’ protests in New Delhi for the past two months, the Sena had extended support to the farmers’ march from Nashik and other parts of the state to Mumbai to protest against the Central government’s three farm laws. Ajit Nawale, Maharashtra general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, had said that Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray would remain present at the public meeting. Instead, the Thackeray scion and Maharashtra minister was in Kalyan, about 60km from Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, to inaugurate a rail overbridge. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the overbridge via video-conferencing from Matoshree, his residence in Bandra East. “We support their show of solidarity. But we still need to be careful about Covid, not just for us or the city, but even for the farmers who have assembled there,” said a senior Sena leader.

Another leader indicated the party did not wish to be viewed as the one breaching the government-laid rules of no public gatherings during the pandemic. Ironically, Aaditya, urban development minister Eknath Shinde and Sena MP Shrikant Shinde were present at the government function in Kalyan, where hundreds had gathered.

Speaking at the inauguration, when the protest at Azad Maidan was on, Thackeray said, “I humbly appeal to all political parties and leaders to avoid large-scale rallies, agitations and protests. Ending Covid is not in our hands, but at least let us not be Covid spreaders.”

Thackeray, however, clarified the Shiv Sena fully supports the farmers. “From the MVA, Pawar saheb is leading it and the chief minister is speaking about it. However, even after 60 days, the union government has not yielded to the demands of the farmers. You [the media] should ask these questions,” Thackeray told reporters.

Sena leaders Sanjay Raut was unavailable for comment despite several attempts. Sena MP and spokesperson Arvind Sawant said he was out of Mumbai.

When the three farm bills were passed in Parliament, the Sena, which has 18 MPs in Lok Sabha, had backed the Bills. But later it walked out of Rajya Sabha when the Bills came up for voting. The Congress and NCP, its allies in Maharashtra, opposed the Bills in both the Houses. “The Sena doesn’t have any cohesive thinking on economy policy, or on agriculture or industries. They only make general statements and this has been since the time of Bal Thackeray,” said Prakash Bal, political analyst.

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