What MVA’s sweep in APMC elections across Maharashtra means

Two things are clear: farmers are unhappy with the BJP, and they want the MVA to stay united. They also rebuffed Amit Shah's attempts to gain a toe-hold in state co-operatives

Image courtesy: agrowon.com
Image courtesy: agrowon.com

Sujata Anandan

Unnoticed by most observers, this week, amid major reports of another regime change in Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi kept its unity intact and swept what is commonly referred to as the mini-Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Market Committee elections are invariably a gauge of the mood in rural areas and across the state, with 147 Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees going to polls, the MVA swept 81, with 24 going to other parties and the BJP and Eknath Shinde factions of the Shiv Sena together having to be satisfied with just 42 market committees.

These market committee elections are fought without symbols but the panels are openly supported and endorsed by various political parties, with their MPs and MLAs campaigning for the candidates.

Across the state, BJP notables like Pankaja Munde, Navneet Rana and, shockingly, Radhakrishnan Vikhe Patil, revenue minister in the Shinde government who also heads animal husbandry and dairy development (and in the past has been agriculture and co-operatives minister), all departments crucial to rural development, got completely wiped out at these polls.

 Considering that the Vikhe-Patils are the doyens of the co-operative movement in the country and Radhakrishna is a seven-time legislator whose family’s utility to the BJP is their rivalry to Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar and his family, that has been a major blow indeed.

But perhaps Vikhe-Patil should have had an inkling—only days before these polls, farmers from across the state had marched, not to Mumbai, but to Loni in Ahmednagar, his home turf, to protest against his government’s policies. The Vikhe-Patils, having been Congressmen for years, have only recently switched to the BJP.

Now, while the Shiv Sena (UBT) did reasonably well at these polls and the Congress posted a hundred per cent result in many market committees—two parties whose abhorrence for the BJP is quite clearly known to everybody—Ajit Pawar’s recent flirtations with the BJP seems to have unnerved the farmer-voters enough to allow many rebels to sneak past the party’s official candidates, even in Pune, Pawars’ home turf.

Farmers are the NCP’s core voters and Pawar Senior has been stressing this for decades, pointing out that all prominent BJP leaders in the country are urban-oriented and cannot be expected to understand farmers’ issues. This was something that came home to them during the farmers’ agitation last year.

Moreover, weeks before these market committee elections went underway, farmers were agitated by the Union government’s plans to open up imports of dairy products, including milk. Now, in the absence of minimum support prices and frequent droughts, the dairy is the only source of the farmers’ survival—and they are beginning to associate the BJP with all their troubles.

So obviously associations with the BJP, by anybody, is clearly not being appreciated by the farmers.

The results of these elections are also a major blow to Union home minister Amit Shah’s recent attempts to gain a toe-hold in the co-operative movement in the state. Despite everything, the co-operatives continue to be the backbone of the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra.

During his term as chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis had tried to break their spine with all sorts of shenanigans—not offering a support price, not Iifting their stock and allowing it to rot in the monsoon in the market yards, not paying out their dues, including during the infamous loan write-off wherein farmers got back as little as a ridiculous one rupee! But they still kept their faith with the Congress- NCP.

Sharad Pawar, who had been losing ground in those years due to his friendly overtures to Narendea Modi and other BJP ministers, had then got down to the brass tacks and guided the farmers to sell their produce in the open market. Since the formation of the MVA in 2019, the emphasis of all partners, including the Shiv Sena, was on farmers and rural development. Now the message from these farmers to the NCP is clear: desist from associating with the BJP or ship out.


It is clear now that the BJP’s policies are going against the rural mood in the state. The BJP’s plans to pinch NCP men to make up the deficit in case of a break-up with the Shinde group could thus also merit a rethink – for, if farmers are in no mood to co-operate with even agricultural doyens like the Pawars and the Vikhe-Patils, there is much more angst against the BJP among rural voters and farmers than most would have thought.

So these results could also put an end to the NCP’s recent love for the BJP for this is the second time that their core constituency has sent them a resounding message about their displeasure at the NCP attempting to ally with the BJP.

The earlier was at the 2017 round of local self-government elections when the NCP did worse than either even the Congress or the Shiv Sena which was then in alliance with the BJP. As a result, two factions had erupted within the party, one pressing for complete distancing from the BJP and the other seeking an alliance for the obvious reasons.

With the results at these elections similar, with MVA in the lead across the regions of the state, be it Western Maharashtra, Marathwada, Khandesh, Konkan or Vidarbha, farmers have left little doubt about their ire.

Obviously, simply associating with the ruling party has not been enough for many like the Ranas of Amravati (of the azaan-Hanuman chalisa fame), the Vikhe-Patils or even Eknath Shinde. So, while this perhaps makes survival difficult for Shinde, the BJP is in a worse situation with farmers clearly subjecting anyone who associates with them to a kind of electoral apartheid. With nearly 70 per cent of the vote vesting in rural areas, the BJP is in need of a rethink. The MVA, too, has been given a clear message—stay united, even if you have to stay out of power. It could only be a matter of time.


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