Mumbai: Post the Lok Sabha elections in which it won 18 seats in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has drafted a new strategy for the assembly polls likely in October this year. The party plans to undertake a massive farm outreach across the state in the next couple of months during which it will lay emphasis on enrolling as many farmers as possible as the beneficiaries of the state and central government schemes. As part of this strategy, the Shiv Sena will take a morcha to the offices of insurance companies in Mumbai on July 17 to demand speedy settlement of farmers' claims, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai on Thursday. On Friday, Uddhav's son and rising Sena leader Aaditya will begin his state-wide tour from Kolhapur also as part of this strategy.
A senior Shiv Sena leader told Mint that after the Lok Sabha elections, the party leadership felt the need to form a new strategy for the assembly elections. Farmers, this leader who requested anonymity, said would be the central theme of this strategy since the Shiv Sena believes that the agrarian crisis in Maharashtra aggravated by chronic droughts would be the “most important issue in the assembly polls. This leader pointed out a “recent case of success" Uddhav Thackeray has had with this strategy. He said that in Aurangabad district alone, the Shiv Sena had helped nearly 14500 farmers to file claims under the crop insurance scheme. “Of the total 14488 claims filed, 14484 have been settled and Rs.72 crore in claim has been approved. Of this, farmers have already received Rs.63 crore. Now compare this with the experience last year when not a single farmer in the district got the benefit of the crop insurance scheme. This is the change Shiv Sena has brought about by persistently following up with the government on these schemes even when we are part of the government. This is how we are going to connect with the farmers," said the Shiv Sena leader.
“The Lok Sabha election was all about Modi. Farmers, youths had their grievances but they believed in Modi and gave him another chance. But assembly elections are different since there is no larger than life image which could tower above these grievances. That is why we need a strategy which will be based on issues and which will show Shiv Sena as the party most committed to farmers’ issues," said the Shiv Sena leader. He pointed out another key objective of the strategy—taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party. “We know for sure that Congress and NCP are totally demoralised and in disarray. But this assembly election is not about Congress-NCP. It is about us and BJP. We are in alliance with BJP but we know for sure that BJP will try to win more seats than us to retain the post of chief minister. We think the BJP in Maharashtra is vulnerable on the farm issues and it is an opportunity for us," said the Shiv Sena leader.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, his son and rising face of the Shiv Sena Aaditya, all Shiv Sena MPs, and ministers would drive this strategy by fanning out across Maharashtra and reaching out to farmers. The Shiv Sena leader added that this strategy and the assembly election campaign in general would also offer the party an opportunity to test Aaditya Thackeray on a big stage. On July 12, the younger Thackeray will start his state-wide yatra named ‘Jan Aashirvad Yatra’(tour to seek people’s blessings) which is a mix of thanksgiving by the Shiv Sena for its success in the Lok Sabha polls as well as a campaign to launch Aaditya as a serious politician and get a head-start for the assembly polls. Notably, the Shiv Sena has timed Aaditya’s state-wide tour before chief minister and the face of BJP’s campaign in the assembly polls Devendra Fadnavis goes on his own state-wide yatra from August 1. Another Shiv Sena functionary, who did not want to be named, said the Shiv Sena did not intend to put the young leader on the same pedestal as Fadnavis. “But we certainly want to reach out to farmers and voters in the state before the BJP does. That would also provide Aaditya saheb with an opportunity to go full steam in serious electoral politics," said the Sena functionary.