In his first visit outside Mumbai after the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government, former Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday toured Aurangabad district in the Marathwada region, which has been ravaged by the withdrawing monsoon.
Targeting the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis-led government for being insensitive to the plight of farmers, Mr. Thackeray demanded that it declare ‘wet drought’ across the State on an urgent basis to bring relief to the farmers.
“There is an excess rain of hollow government announcements and a drought of sensitivity on its part… I have come here [to Aurangabad] because the government is claiming that the present situation does not merit declaration of a ‘wet drought’. I would like to know when is the administration going to complete the panchnamas [damage assessments]? On behalf of farmers, I demand that they should get ₹50,000 per hectare as compensation,” said Mr. Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) faction following the split within the Sena after Eknath Shinde’s revolt in June.
Assuring farmers that the Shiv Sena (UBT), along with other MVA parties like the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, fully supported all their demands, Mr. Thackeray took jibes at Chief Minister Shinde and his revolt, which caused a vertical split within the Sena.
“You all [Eknath Shinde faction] have made be step down from the CM’s post and betrayed the Sena, but do not at least deceive the farmers of this State... It is not for nothing that the farmers are demanding a wet drought be declared immediately. I am not interested in politicking…I am making this demand on behalf of the farmers,” Mr. Thackeray said, exhorting farmers to make the new government ‘sweat’ to fulfil their promises.
Aurangabad on the cards
The ruling BJP and the Shinde faction mocked Mr. Thackeray’s ‘symbolic’ visit to Aurangabad, remarking that the former CM had undertaken the tour out of desperation as he was worried about losing control of Aurangabad district.
The district is a Sena bastion with the party holding six of the eight Assembly seats in Aurangabad. However, after the split, the Shinde group, now known as Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, holds five of the six seats, leaving only one seat for Thackeray group.
Mr. Thackeray’s faction nonetheless holds the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). The Shiv Sena (UBT) will be severely tested here in the upcoming civic body polls.
Meanwhile, State Agriculture Minister and Shinde faction MLA Abdul Sattar said that had Mr. Thackeray undertaken such tours in the past and connected with farmers, then no schism would have arisen within the Shiv Sena today.
Jeering at Mr. Thackeray’s short visit, Mr. Sattar said, “How much will he understand farmers’ problems in a half-an-hour’s time is questionable.”
Mr. Thackeray’s ally in the MVA, NCP chief Sharad Pawar supported his visit. “He [Uddhav Thackeray] had not been keeping well all this while [alluding to the Sena chief’s surgery]… Now, as his health is improving, he is moving out,” he said.
As early as in July, Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar had demanded that the Shinde-Fadnavis Government immediately declare a ‘wet drought’ across the State, given the lakhs of acres of cropland were ravaged by heavy showers.