After Shiv Sena declared to break ties with BJP and go solo in the upcoming polls, the possibility of difficult 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Maharashtra for BJP has again taken a fresh turn after ‘firebrand’ farmers’ leader Raju Shetti expressed his willingness to join hands with Shiv Sena if it moves out of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre and BJP-led alliance government in the state.
The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Shetti, who was a part of the BJP-led NDA till last year, on September 2017 withdrew its support to the Mahayuti (grand alliance) and the Fadnavis government over its failure to honour farmers’ demands. “Over 50 per cent of the country’s population still live in rural areas and it is largely ‘hurt and affected’ by the BJP-led government’s policies, the Lok Sabha member from Maharashtra avowed.
When AV spoke to Raju Shetti, he affirmed to have a good relationship with Shiv Sena and admired Sena to support the farmers in every issue. “Shiv Sena had mostly supported us in our decisions. If they quit the Centre and the state government, we will support them but final decisions are yet to be taken. All parties should come together against the BJP government. I will clear my stand soon,” Shetti remarked.
He further added, “We suggested two resolutions for the welfare of the farmers in the Assembly and 23 parties supported us. We are determined to bring it in reality after we come to power post elections. 2019 will be tough for BJP. We have left BJP as they failed to meet their promises to the farmers.”
Not only Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, but also other regional allies like Republican Party of India (RPI) led by Athawale, Mahadeo Jankar’s Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSM), and Vinayak Mete’s Shiv Sangram are unhappy with BJP over the unfair share of power in the state government. However, all these parties don’t have a single MLA in the state. Political experts believe BJP will slip-up if they consider these regional allies weak as they had a significant role in bringing them into power in 2014. They believe that alike Raju Shetti, if these regional allies of BJP too turn their backs in near future, the 2019 elections won’t be a cakewalk to reinstall Modi wave in the state.
“The RPI played a major role in getting the BJP to power in the state. But I regret that my party got little by way of representation in the state government. I have had talks with the BJP leadership and hope the situation would be corrected soon,” expressed Athavale a week back.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan stated, “The cloud over political equations in Maharashtra will only clear before the elections. Congress will welcome Raju Shetti if he wishes to join hands. BJP has failed miserably to bring its alliance partners together; if Sena and BJP fight elections separately, there’s no doubt over the Congress-NCP’s victory in 2019. Modi’s style of functioning has created conflict amongst the NDA allies.”
More than 4,500 farmers have ended their lives in the state in last 10 months. It seems that the extensive farmers’ movement in the state over the failure to waive farm loan or provide minimum support price for the crops will set the tone of 2019 polls. It is acting as the catalyst to unfold government’s ignorance towards the agrarian crisis and none other than BJP’s own allies are ‘disappointed’ and at odds with them as Raju Shetti called supporting BJP in 2014 a “grave mistake”.
Shiv Sena MLA Neelam Gorhe confirmed that Shiv Sena always has a good relationship with Raju Shetti. She further said, “He always fights to solve the agrarian crisis and we support his decisions to solve farmers’ woes. The farmers of our state support Sena and we believe it’s our duty to help them. We will be happy to work with Shetti, however, the final decision will only be taken by our supremo.”
By the end of March this year, the speculation of Raju Shetti likely to join hands with the Congress-led UPA became viral after Shetti, accompanied by Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan and AICC general secretary Mohan Prakash, met Rahul Gandhi to discuss an action plan to work together to support the cause of farmers in the state.
BJP spokesperson Bhalchandra Shirsat stated, “BJP has taken steps for the welfare of farmers in a massive way and we did proper justice to them. However, in a democracy, everyone has the right to speak. BJP’s reaction on Raju Shetti’s comment will come at the right time. It feels that opposition parties are afraid of Modi wave and they are feeling insecure.”
After major alliance partners like N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena cut off ties with BJP, the upcoming months till 2019 polls will be a crucial pathway for BJP in Maharashtra. Moreover, being on a war footing on issues concerning the agricultural sector can only save BJP going friendless in the state.