Mumbai: The state’s adamant stand over direct milk subsidy coupled with the opposition’s support to the ongoing agitation over milk procurement rates has re-established Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti as a strong farmer leader in Maharashtra.
Sunil Tambe, an agricultural expert, said, “This milk agitation has proved that Mr Shetti, on his own, could get this government down to its knees. The state dairy federation and processing milk producers’ federation announced a Rs 3 hike a day before the agitation. The state government showed willingness to hold talks with the protesters. All this has proved politically positive for Mr Shetti.”
Mr Shetti, whose party Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana (SSS) is leading the milk producers’ agitation, was with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance last year. Since then, he has been trying to gain a foothold in state politics, and the ongoing milk agitation has only helped him.
However, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has also indicated that the government is unable to pay subsidy money directly to farmers, citing the huge network of private dairies. Hence, it will be a challenge for Mr Shetti to find respectable middle ground with the government.
Kolhapur-based political expert Prakash Powar said, “Milk is a perishable product. So, this agitation can’t sustain for more than eight to 10 days. Both sides will have to find a way. In such a condition, Mr Shetti will have to see that the protest doesn’t stretch too long and that farmers get some benefits. This will only help him in the long term.”