Mumbai: With thousands of farmers threatening to converge outside the State Assembly on Monday, the Devendra Fadnavis government, which had disregarded the protest march when it began in Nashik on March 6, has changed gears and reached out to the agitators.
Bending backwards, Fadnavis, rushed his emissary, Girish Mahajan, minister for water resources, to meet the farmers and dissuade them from marching to the Vidhan Sabha. However, Ajit Navale, leader of the Communist Party and convenor of the Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the protest, is a tough nut to crack. He has refused to be drawn into any discussions at this stage and is determined to go ahead with the March.
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He had embarrassed the government in a similar fashion by calling an 11-day state-wide farmers’ bandh last July. Navale was again responsible for bringing the government down on its knees and forcing it to announce a farm loan waiver of Rs 34,020 crores. Dispatching trouble-shooter Girish Mahajan just when the farmers are knocking at the doors of the Vidhan Sabha is a question of too little and too late. In the last six days, neither the agriculture minister nor the tribal minister took the trouble to meet the leader of the Kisan Sabha.
Apprehensive of the traffic chaos that will ensue when more than 30,000 farmers and tribals march to the Assembly, ‘Varsha’ — the official residence of CM — has virtually become a war room, with authorities scratching their heads how to minimise the hardship to the citizens.
These farmers want a complete waiver of loans and their electricity dues. They also want Minimum Support Prices to be fixed keeping Swaminathan Commission recommendations in mind as per which they should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production. Most important, they want an answer from the government on non-implementation of the promises that were made to them, said Navale, the state general secretary of the Kisan Sabha.
Aiming to take political advantage, Eknath Shinde, guardian minister of Thane and Shiv Sena leader, walked along with the protestors from Thane to Ghatkopar on Sunday. He had also visited the farmers who had converged on Sunday night at Mulund check naka.
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Aditya Thackeray, chief of Yuva Sena, too, joined the march at Vikhroli and assured the protestors that the Sena is with the farmers, even though the agitation is being spearheaded by the CPM under the umbrella of the Kisan Sabha. MNS chief Raj Thackeray also met the protestors and voiced solidarity with the farmers. But he stopped short of joining the morcha.
Ashok Chavan, president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, said the chief minister should set aside his ego and call the Kisan Sabha leaders for a dialogue. Dhananjay Munde, the leader of the opposition in Legislative Council, has announced his decision to join the march. Jiva Pandu Gavit, a CPM MLA from Kalvan in Nasik district, has been taking up the farmers’ issues from time to time. He is looking after their interests this time, too.
Bending backwards, Fadnavis, rushed his emissary, Girish Mahajan, minister for water resources, to meet the farmers and dissuade them from marching to the Vidhan Sabha. However, Ajit Navale, leader of the Communist Party and convenor of the Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the protest, refused to be drawn into any discussions at this stage and decided to go ahead with the March.