Mumbai: In a state cabinet meeting held on October 6, Maharashtra ministers stood in silence for two minutes to pay tribute to the dead farmers in Lakhimpur Khiri. Not just that, members of all three parties, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, discussed the situation in Uttar Pradesh in detail.
After cabinet meeting, the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance also unitedly decided call for a Maharashtra Bandh on October 11, in support of the protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, where four farmers were mowed down by an SUV allegedly driven by a BJP Minister’s son.
The MVA announcement is being seen as significant in political circles here ever since the farmers’ agitation began in 2020, Maharashtra's ruling parties have not taken such a strong stand. Various organisations have welcomed the stand of the ruling alliance in the state.
In the cabinet meeting, NCP state president and irrigation minister Jayant Patil started the discussion on the murder of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. Sources said Patil blamed the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
"The videos in social media are clearly suggesting that farmers were peaceful during the agitation. But, a car mowed down some of these farmers. In such a case, the culprits should have been arrested by now. But, to protect their leaders, police have not taken any action," Patil reportedly said.
Shiv Sena minister Subhash Desai seconded this view, as per sources. "The reaction of this incident is visible all over India. There should be an active message from our side that no such attack on farmers will be tolerated," Desai is believed to have said.
Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat reportedly narrated the detention of party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and how the UP police had not allowed Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and other Congress leaders to enter Lucknow. After these narrations, the entire cabinet stood in silence for two minutes in homage to the dead farmers.
After the cabinet procedure was completed, leaders of all three parties demanded some action as a mark of protest in Maharashtra. Here, Congress and Shiv Sena ministers said that farmers of Maharashtra are with the farmers of Uttar Pradesh. "To show solidarity, we must give a call for a one-day strike in the state," Desai suggested. Since everyone supported this, it was decided that the three parties shall unitedly give this call.
Sources from MVA say that the move to give a strike call indicated the alliance taking the battle with BJP to the next level. "Before the cabinet meeting, the results of bypolls in the Zila Parishads (ZP) were declared. MVA has done fairly well in these elections. So, the leaders have realised that the people are turning against BJP, and this incident will play an important role in this process," said a senior Sena minister after the meeting.
The MVA had been supporting the farmers' agitation since day one. But it was not proactive as they did not intend to shift the battleground from Delhi to Mumbai by being too vocal. So, in every strike or protest in the last year, MVA leaders participated for the sake of being seen.
"This strike call is very significant. As many as 15 municipalities, 20 ZPs and 350 municipal councils will go for polls in the next six months. This includes cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nasik, Nagpur and other cities. Here, MVA may or may not go in an alliance, but one thing is for sure, their principal enemy will be BJP in every local body. We need to see this strike in this backdrop. The MVA has realised that they will have to defeat BJP through people," said Vijay Chormare, a senior journalist of Maharashtra.
There is a view that Congress leaders have been pushing the alliance to take a firm anti-BJP stand for some months now. But Sena chief and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray was not doing so aggressively. However, sources said that BJP's constant attack through agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Income Tax(IT) department, and others have made Thackeray realise that there is no option other than to fight.
"You see, MVA sometimes actively supported the Bharat Bandh call given by Samyukta Kisan Morcha. But Shiv Sena was reluctant throughout. This time, Subhash Desai himself said that we should give a call of strike. He is very close to Thackeray. Shiv Sena as well is calling for the Bandh,” observed a Congress leader.