Lambasting the ‘low politics’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Devendra Fadnavis in their bid for power, farmers’ leader and Swabhimani Paksha chief Raju Shetti on Sunday said that the BJP had lowered the dignity of the Maharashtra Assembly to that of a chaotic gram panchayat while accusing Mr. Fadnavis, who took oath as Chief Minister on Saturday, of acting like a grasping, power-hungry sarpanch (village head).
In a jibe at the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar, who took oath as Deputy Chief Minister by offering support to the BJP, Mr. Shetti said that the “interests of farmers” were being casually invoked by an “insincere BJP and other selfish leaders” who wanted power at any cost.
“The shameful way in which the BJP is indulging in horse-trading by poaching leaders from other parties, and then claiming that it was forming a government in this manner solely for the interests of farmers, has exposed them thoroughly,” Mr. Shetti said, speaking to The Hindu from Kolhapur.
He further said that he had directed the Swabhimani Paksha’s lone MLA Devendra Bhuyar, who won the Morshi Assembly segment in Amravati district, to remain in the party’s stronghold in Kolhapur as he did not trust the BJP and its “below-the-belt tactics”.
In the Assembly polls, Mr. Bhuyar had emerged as a ‘giant killer’ to defeat BJP leader and State Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde from the Morshi segment. Mr. Bhuyar, a grassroots activist handpicked by Mr. Shetti, was dragged out of his car — which was torched — and beaten by unidentified criminals on polling day on October 21.
“He [Mr. Bhuyar] has already received a number of calls from the BJP urging him to leave my side. But, he has stood his ground and given them a fitting reply. I have urged him not to leave for Mumbai as there has already been an attempt on his life even on polling day,” said Mr. Shetti, who is an ally of the Congress-NCP coalition.
Mr. Shetti’s farmer outfit, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) concluded their much-anticipated sugar conclave in Jaysingpur in Kolhapur district on Saturday even as the State was grappling with vertiginous political developments.
The farmers’ union has given a breather to sugar factories till December 15 to pay the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP), while demanding that mill owners pay farmers an additional ₹200 per tonne over and above the FRP amount.
“Given the shambolic political scene and the absence of a stable government, we have given time to mill owners to accede to our FRP demands till December 15. Till then, we have allowed for the crushing of cane to commence on a priority basis,” Mr. Shetti said, reiterating that the SSS remained firm on its demand that the farmers be paid the FRP at one go and not in instalments. His outfit would re-commence agitations against errant mill owners who did not accede to these demands.
Swabhimani Paksha leader Anil Pawar said: “As the crushing season already delayed by more than a month, we have permitted factories to begin crushing the cane which was damaged by the deluge that hit Sangli and Kolhapur districts. The crushing of the undamaged cane, which is standing on the field, will begin after the factories announce the decision to give the full FRP amount plus ₹200 per tonne.”
Earlier this week, SSS activists had torched a tractor carrying sugarcane from a Kolhapur factory to be crushed in a mill in the neighbouring Karnataka, while damaging six other vehicles. The SSS had warned factory owners of not commencing cane crushing operations until it had concluded its annual sugar conclave on November 23.