The Shiv Sena cries wolf, again
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The Shiv Sena cries wolf, again

Mumbai city news: The Shiv Sena, which is a party not generally associated with farmers, has got wind of the saboteurs within the BJP and is going for its ally’s jugular

mumbai Updated: Jun 13, 2017 23:59 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,Uddhav Thackeray,BJP
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (HT photo)

The Shiv Sena is back to what it does best – playing mischief. After a spell of silence following the BJP’s massive and unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh, the party has begun needling its ally again and this time it has gone one step further – threatened a mid-term poll in the state.

Opposition parties have finally got their teeth into an issue that seems beyond the BJP – farmers and minimum support prices to them. During the 2014 election campaign, Narendra Modi had promised them an MSP that would give them 50 per cent profits over and above costs and farmers had abandoned the Congress and the NCP in large numbers to vote for the BJP. But now not only is that MSP not forthcoming, the farmers have had to suffer massive losses due to crashing prices in wholesale markets -- and that is only partly due to bumper crop production. Demonetisation continues to have its effect on farm economies even six months after the event – they begged and borrowed in the immediate aftermath to buy fertilisers and sow seeds but now there still is a cash shortage in co-operative banks, which is making it difficult for farmers to realise their returns.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been blaming the “opposition” parties for the fiasco but what he is unable to voice is the fact there is much internal strife within the BJP as well that compelled him to backtrack and eat his own words on loan waivers. Now the Shiv Sena, which is a party not generally associated with farmers, has got wind of the saboteurs within the BJP and is going for its ally’s jugular.

The tur dal fiasco in the state is a good example of the BJP’s self goal on farm issues. Vidarbha has produced a bumper crop this year and there are tonnes and tonnes of the pulses sitting in gunny sacks in the market yards of Yavatmal and Chandrapur. Monsoon is close and farmers are worried once the rains arrive, those bags will be soaked through and all their crop destroyed. But the government is able to do little to procure the grain, or even secure them, for two reasons – one, there is a lack of cement and concrete godowns where the gunny bags can be shifted temporarily until the government sorts out the issue of procurement. But, second and more important is the fact that the government has no clue who will buy that bumper harvest because there already is a surplus – last year prices of tur daal were soaring and the government encouraged the farmers to grow more. But in the clamour against rising prices it got unnerved and went into some panic buying from Mozambique.

“Here the farmers were readying to harvest a bumper crop and ships were already docking in Bombay and offloading containers upon containers of tur dal from Mozambique,” says Professor Ghanshyam Darane, a farmers’ activist in Yavatmal who believes the problem could still be sorted out were it not for the politics. The internal issues within the BJP is exacerbating the situation and the ongoimg battle between the Congress-NCP and the BJP is squashing the farmers because, as the professor says, the government is only interested in crushing the co-operatives, including the banks, because these are seen as institutions controlled by the opposition parties. ‘’The farmer who has little to do with politics is getting completely destroyed in the process.” he adds.

This is where the Shiv Sena has sensed its opportunity and decided to press its advantage as the only party not playing games with farmers. For the first time it has held an “agricultural convention” (in Nashik) and attempted to take ownership of the farmers’ strike. Although both the Congress and the BJP have been quick to deny the Sena that ownership, pointing out that that the agitation was spontaneous, throwing up many new faces as leaders, the fact remains the BJP now seems the only party appearing completely oblivious and indifferent to farmers’ issues, compounded by the police firing in neghbouring Madhya Pradesh, which killed six farmers. There too the Sena has been quick to mock the MP chief minister for “fasting after firing”.

But does the Sena have the courage to more than just mock and threaten? How can there be a mid-term poll unless it exits the government? I dont think it will. It is merely crying wolf, again.

First Published: Jun 13, 2017 23:59 IST