Mumbai: A day after two farmers died and buses were torched following violence in the sugarcane belt of Maharashtra, a political slanging match is on. Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare on Tuesday hit out at Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, blaming him for provoking violence over the minimum support price for sugarcane in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara districts.
"It is because of Sharad Pawar's comments that the violence erupted. what has he done for the farmers. He does a lot for the industrial belt but what about the farmers?" questioned Hazare.
Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which controls several sugar co-operatives in the state, had targeted MP Raju Shetty, the man leading the farmers' protest, saying that sugar factories his constituency were running fine but he was disrupting work in the neighbouring areas. "Is this fair?" Pawar had asked.
The NCP's ally, the Congress, however, is backing the farmers' right to get a fair price. Maharashtra Congress President Manickrao Thakre said, "The issue should be resolved and the farmers should get a fair price."
The violent protests had erupted as sugar co-operatives decided to give a base price of Rs 2,300 per tonne to the farmers even as they demanded a price of over Rs 3,000 per tonne. The Maharashtra government refused to intervene in the pricing agreement.
Though no incidents of violence were reported on Tuesday, the situation still remains tense in Sangli. With Arvind Kejriwal slated to meet Raju Shetty in Yerawada Prison on Wednesday and the Shiv Sena calling a bandh in the region on the same day, the farmers' protest could snowball into a political row.