Panvel: Prominent opposition leaders in Maharashtra on Tuesday indicated that their solidarity over demands for farm loan waiver would continue and could even lead to a political realignment.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, addressing the opposition’s Sangharsha Yatra for a farm loan waiver on Tuesday, said all the parties that participated in the agitation would continue to follow a co-ordinated political strategy. “The next line of action on how to take further the agitation on other farm issues would also be taken by all opposition parties together,” he added.
Just last week, Pawar called for solidarity among opposition parties to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan told a press conference in Pune earlier in the day that the opposition parties would stay united on all farmers’ issues.
The first phase of the Sangharsha Yatra ended on Tuesday at Panvel on the outskirts of Navi Mumbai, having started from Chandrapur in Vidarbha on 29 March. Opposition leaders and legislators travelled about 3,000 km, covering 16 districts, including drought-stricken parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.
Asserting that the opposition would continue to agitate until farm debt-waiver was granted, leaders from all opposition parties stressed that only the first phase of the Sangharsha Yatra had concluded on Tuesday. Both Pawar and Chavan said the next phase would be even more intense.
Pawar reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he had promised to make farmers debt-free but had not delivered on his promise in three years.
The NCP chief said the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under prime minister Manmohan Singh had waived farm debt worth Rs71,000 crore in 2008 even though that was not an electoral promise. “Manmohan Singh took that decision looking at the merit of the situation but you haven’t kept your own promise,” Pawar said.
Pawar claimed 20 nationalised banks had written off non performing assets worth Rs2.8 trillion in debt given to big corporates. “The farm debt-waiver would cost much less than this and yet Modi and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis are not sensitive to the farmers’ plight,” Pawar said.
Opposition leaders pointed out that the first phase of the Sangharsha Yatra had concluded on a day when the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh had declared a waiver of farm loans as promised during the election. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh rolled out a Rs36,000 crore farm debt-waiver on Tuesday.
The opposition said farmers in Maharashtra, who were in a far more critical state than their counterparts in UP, were being discriminated against. More than 9,000 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in three years since 2014, the opposition leaders claimed.
The opposition also referred to a Madras high court ruling on Tuesday in which the court asked the Tamil Nadu government to waive farm loans of all farmers irrespective of their land holdings and also said the Centre should bear some costs.
NCP legislator Jitendra Avhad said opposition legislators in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Mumbai would soon file petitions with different benches of the Bombay high court to seek directions to the state and Centre to grant farm loan waiver on the lines of Tamil Nadu.