Maharashtra in 2017: Of Elphinstone stampede, Kamala Mills fire tragedy and agrarian issues

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Mumbai | Published: January 5, 2018 12:05:09 PM

An ambitious farmers loan waiver scheme, resignation of former chief minister Narayan Rane from Congress and Lok Sabha member Nana Patole from BJP dominated the political landscape of Maharashtra in the year gone by which also saw a horrific fire tragedy and stampede.

kamala mills fire, kamala mills fire tragedy, mumbai kamala mills tragedy, mumbai fire tragedy, devendra fadnavis, farm loan waiver, loan waiver scheme, maharashtra loan waiver, Elphinstone Road stampede, mumbai stampede, mumbai Elphinstone stampedeAfter days of speculation and backdoor negotiations, Fadnavis made a surprise announcement, saying the BJP won’t field candidates for the post of mayor, deputy mayor or standing chairman in the civic body. (PTI)

An ambitious farmers loan waiver scheme, resignation of former chief minister Narayan Rane from Congress and Lok Sabha member Nana Patole from BJP dominated the political landscape of Maharashtra in the year gone by which also saw a horrific fire tragedy and stampede. In September, 23 people died in the stampede on a foot overbridge linking the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations. And as the year was drawing to a close, tragedy struck again when a massive fire swept through a plush rooftop pub in downtown Mumbai during a birthday bash before swiftly raging through the building, leaving 14 people dead and 21 injured. Mumbai was also hit by floods due to torrential rains that claimed 10 lives in the city and the neighbouring districts of Palghar and Thane in August. In June, farmers in the state went on a strike to press for their demands like loan waiver and free electricity. The stir was withdrawn after they met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who promised a series of measures to meet their demands. The same month, the state government announced the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana scheme for waiving loans of Rs 34,022 crore of 89 lakh farmers. Lengthy procedures and rescinding of a faulty list later, it finalised a first list of just 239,000 beneficiaries on October 27. The Opposition criticised the government, saying the scheme demanded a digital application from farmers, as many were unused to online transactions. In December, BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha was detained by police in Akola while protesting against the government for its alleged apathy towards cotton and soybean cultivators. BJP MP Patole, a critic of the central and state governments’ handling of the agrarian issues, resigned from the party and the Lok Sabha in December, accusing it of failing to keep the promises it made to the people. Patole announced his decision a day before the first phase polling in Gujarat and joined Congress president Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Ahmedabad on December 11. In September, the state Congress unit received a setback when senior leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane quit the party and his Legislative Council seat. In October, Rane launched a new party called the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh, announcing that he was joining the BJP-led NDA. There was speculation that he would be inducted in the state cabinet but that hasn’t happened yet. Rane, who was the chief minister in 1999 while in the Shiv Sena, did not contest the council bypoll in December. BJP nominee Prasad Lad, considered close to Fadnavis, won the election with a handsome margin.

In September, farmers leader and Lok Sabha member Raju Shetti left the NDA, saying farmers were cheated by the Modi government which promised them double input cost as minimum support price for their produce. Following his ouster from the Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha, Maharashtra minister Sadabhau Khot launched his own party, Rayat Kranti Sanghatana, in September. The year 2017 began with a keen tussle between BJP and Shiv Sena for control of the Mumbai civic body, in the February election to the 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the country’s richest civic body. The Shiv Sena won 84 seats. The BJP was close behind, winning 82 seats, while the Congress was a distant third with 31 seats. The two major parties failed to achieve the majority of 114 seats, which led to a deadlock over election of Mumbai mayor. After days of speculation and backdoor negotiations, Fadnavis made a surprise announcement, saying the BJP won’t field candidates for the post of mayor, deputy mayor or standing chairman in the civic body. After bypolls in the later part of 2017, the BJP now has 83 corporators while the Sena is marginally ahead with 85. The BJP also registered an impressive performance in elections to various local self government bodies in the state this year.

In September, the Congress won 73 out of 81 seats in the Nanded Municipal Corporation, the home turf of state Congress president Ashok Chavan. In a huge blow to the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the Hyderabad-based party drew a blank in the Nanded poll. In December, Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule was briefly detained in Nagpur, while participating in a ‘Halla Bol’ padyatra (march) against the Fadnavis-led government’s ‘anti-farmer’ policies. The march had started from Yavatmal, a district in the Vidarbha region prone to farmer suicides. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray in December said the party will snap ties with BJP in a year. Sena, the junior partner in the BJP-led coalition government, had threatened several times in the past to walk out of the government.

Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections in 2014, the BJP and the Sena parted ways but that separation was short- lived as the latter joined the BJP-led government in December the same year. The two parties have been at loggerheads ever since, with Sena mouthpiece often penning editorial critical of the BJP and the Modi government’s performance. As 2017 came to a close, Fadnavis, having successfully staved off challengers from within his party during the last three years as chief minister, appeared on a strong wicket.

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