Virtually putting its ruling ally in Maharashtra on notice, the Shiv Sena today asked the BJP to announce a “complete farm loan waiver” if it wanted to avoid a mid-term election in the state. Toughening of stand by the Sena at a time when the Devendra Fadnavis government is on the backfoot due to farmers’ protests assumes significance amid reports that the BJP is weighing its options vis-a-vis an early Assembly election. The BJP-led NDA government was formed in the state in October, 2014. Though the chief minister had announced a loan waiver for the small and marginal farmers amid a farmers’ protest, the Sena had been insisting on a “complete farm loan waiver”. Sena MP Sanjay Raut today told a Marathi news channel that the party will not be affected if it relinquished power. “We will not lose anything and it will not affect us even if we relinquish power. We are better prepared than the BJP in case of a mid-term election. If the government wishes to avoid it, it should immediately announce a complete farm loan waiver,” he said. Asserting that the Sena would withdraw from the government “in no time” if it wanted to, Raut asked the BJP to clearly state that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party’s stand on various issues was indeed “causing anguish” within the saffron party. “Take it as our warning…announce a complete (farm) loan waiver or we will not take much time to throttle the government,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha member accused Fadnavis of playing “dirty politics” over the issue of farm loan waiver. “It is the chief minister who created a rift between (Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief) Raju Shetti and (Minister of state for Agriculture) Sadabhau Khot,” he alleged. Referring to Fadnavis’ statement that the government will withdraw the cases only against the protesting farmers and not the others, Raut asked, “Can a worker of a political party also not be a farmer?” Replying to a query on the upcoming presidential polls, the Sena MP said his party had no intention of putting pressure on the BJP when the latter proposed RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s name for the country’s top constitutional post. Referring to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s “reluctance” to throw his hat in the ring for the presidential polls, Raut said, “Pawar does not seem to have agreed on the proposal, but if he files nomination, we will see.”