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Maharashtra CM promises complete farm loan waiver

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with (from left) NCP leader Ajit Pawar, State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, Cabinet Minister Jayant Patil, and NCP chief Sharad Pawar at the Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with (from left) NCP leader Ajit Pawar, State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, Cabinet Minister Jayant Patil, and NCP chief Sharad Pawar at the Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Jignesh Mistry

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The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government will stand by the farmers through thick and thin, Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray declared on Wednesday, reiterating his government’s commitment to total farm loan waiver. He said his government was actively working towards this and could be rolled out in the coming days.

“We have already announced an immediate waiver of loans totalling ₹2 lakh per farmer as immediate relief to cultivators. While we are certainly going to do this, we are also taking steps to ensure that their entire crop loan [above ₹2 lakh] is waived,” Mr. Thackeray said in his address at the 43rd Annual General Meeting of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), whose chairman is Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

The Chief Minister shared the dais with Mr. Pawar and other politicians, sugar barons and cooperative sector heavyweights across the political spectrum including senior NCP leaders Jayant Patil and Ajit Pawar, Balasaheb Thorat of the Congress, NCP ‘rebel’ and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, and Harshawardhan Patil of BJP among others.

“The cooperative sector and politics of Maharashtra are inseparable. This sector has bequeathed several tall leaders to the State. The rural economy is dependent on this sector. As a result, it is incumbent upon us to ensure the well-being of the farmer, who is the fulcrum of this sector,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Taking potshots at his estranged ally, the BJP, Mr. Thackeray said that in the earlier government, the Sena was figuratively only “half a component”.

Changed situation

“What I mean by this is that we did not have the complete freedom to take decisions and follow them up. But that has changed now. [NCP chief] Sharad Pawar has taught us not only to raise farm productivity but also to form a government despite having lesser number of MLAs,” said Mr. Thackeray adding that the BJP should not boast of having emerged as the single largest party after the Assembly polls.

Praising Mr. Pawar’s vision behind setting up the VSI, Mr. Thackeray announced his government’s intention of establishing another branch of the institute in the Marathwada region.

“I am proud that such a concern [VSI] which delves into the technical problems of agriculture and disseminates its researches is in my State…so, their work, which has contributed so much to well-being of farmers while enhancing knowledge about best agricultural practices, must expand across the State, ” Mr. Thackeray said.

Noting the dire economic conditions in the country, the Chief Minister said even the former Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian had spoken of the Indian economy heading towards an “intensive care unit”.

“At a time when we are in such economic doldrums, we have to ensure security for farmers’ livelihoods. While a number of problems ail the cooperative sector today, we will set a committee comprising of technical experts and agricultural scientists to come with suggestions and most importantly, act upon them to resolve problems in this sector,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Indicating that the ideologically opposed coalition of the Sena and the Congress-NCP was working in harmony, the Chief Minister said that he deferred to the knowledge and experience of Mr. Pawar and other leaders in the government on issues pertaining to agriculture and revenue.

“We have a wealth of experience on these issues, be it Mr. Pawar’s knowledge or the experience of Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and Balasaheb Thorat ,” Mr. Thackeray said.

This is the first time that the Chief Minister addressed the VSI meet since becoming Chief Minister. While Maharashtra’s cooperative sector has been overwhelmingly dominated by politicians from the NCP and the Congress, the BJP has only managed to secure a marginal toehold in recent times, mainly by acquiring NCP and Congress leaders who defected to their side.

In contrast, the Shiv Sena has had a minimal presence in sugar cooperatives.

A sense of this awareness was reflected in Mr. Thackeray’s speech, in which the Sena chief continually deferred to the expertise of Mr. Pawar.

Earlier, eyebrows were raised when senior NCP Ajit Pawar changed his seating arrangement to be close to his bete noire ex-Congressman turned BJP leader Harshavardhan Patil, who had quit the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls.

A bitter Mr. Patil, a former Minister in the Congress-NCP government, had exited the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls while openly blaming the Pawar clan for their ‘duplicity’ in not leaving the Indapur Assembly seat for him.

Just before the Lok Sabha polls in May this year, Mr. Ajit Pawar had personally conferred with Mr. Patil to ensure that he campaigned for his cousin, Supriya Sule’s win in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency (of which Indapur is a part).

Harshavardhan on stage

Mr. Ajit Pawar was seen amicably chatting with Mr. Patil prior to the VSI meet.

“There was no political talk…we discussed issues pertaining to agriculture,” Mr. Patil said later.

Similarly, former NCP stalwart Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, whose relations with the Pawar clan soured after a bitter tiff over ticket allocation during the Lok Sabha polls, was seen in conversation with Mr. Sharad Pawar ahead of the event.

“I have not gone anywhere…I am still with the NCP and Sharad Pawar. I had even met him a number of times after the Lok Sabha polls,” was Mr. Mohite-Patil’s cryptic remark when asked whether he had indeed gone over to the BJP.

Mr. Mohite-Patil’s son Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil joined the BJP after the NCP brass allegedly refused the Mohite-Patils’ a ticket for the Madha Lok Sabha seat in Solapur. The elder Mohite-Patil had subsequently gone out to ensure the BJP’s victory in Madha and had shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s rally in Solapur ahead of the general elections.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:25:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-cm-promises-complete-farm-loan-waiver/article30398597.ece

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