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Maharashtra: Parties join hands for Vidarbha statehood cause

The political arm of liberal farmer leader late Sharad Joshi's Shetkari Sanghatana (SS), has aligned with a group of pro-Vidarbha parties in the Lok Sabha elections.

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Dhaval Kulkarni

Updated: Apr 10, 2019, 06:25 AM IST

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Campaigning on the plank of statehood for the region, the Swatantra Bharat Paksha (SBP), the political arm of liberal farmer leader late Sharad Joshi's Shetkari Sanghatana (SS), has aligned with a group of pro-Vidarbha parties in the Lok Sabha elections.

"The SBP is part of the Vidarbha Mahamanch, which consists of 12 parties," said former MLA Wamanrao Chatap, who is a member of the high-power committee of the SBP and the Shetkari Sanghatana national executive.

This included the Nag Vidarbha Andolan Samiti, Vidarbha Rajya Aghadi led by former Maharashtra advocate general Shrihari Aney, former legislator Upendra Shende's Republican Party of India (Khobragade) (RPI-K), MLA Bacchu Kadu's Prahaar and Bahujan Socialist Republican Party (BRSP).

"Our common agenda is statehood for Vidarbha. Our priorities also include remunerative pricing for agricultural produce, elimination of malnutrition, complete loan waivers, round-the-clock power supply for farmers and eliminating Vidarbha's developmental backlog," said Chatap. A four-term MLA from Rajura in Chandrapur, Chatap contested the Lok Sabha elections from Chandrapur twice (2009 and 2014) and secured over 1.50 lakh votes.

The front is fighting eight seats in Vidarbha. While the Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti, which includes SS and SBP leaders, will contest Bhandara-Gondia and Akola, the BRSP floated by former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Suresh Mane, will fight from Nagpur and Chandrapur. The Rashtriya Jansurajya Party is in the fray from Ramtek and Amravati, while Prahaar and the Lok Jagar Party are contesting from Yavatmal-Washim and Wardha respectively.

The SBP has fielded three candidates, namely Rupesh Sankhe (Latur), Appasaheb Kadam (Parbhani) and Bhagwan Borade (Nashik). It has also supported the Swarna Bharat Party (SBP), which is contesting from Pune and Kolhapur.

The Shetkari Sanghatana, which is a liberal farmers' movement and its political arm--the SBP--broke from Marxist, socialist and Nehruvian thought and promoted a doctrine based on greater economic and technological freedom for farmers including access to markets and technologies. It seeks that the state reduces its overarching influence across the personal and economic lives of individuals.

The organisation moots smaller states like Vidarbha for better governance.

Joshi, who expired in 2015, propounded theories like "Bharat vs India," (on the economic-cultural divide between India and exploited agrarian Bharat) and the need for loan waivers and remunerative pricing for agriculture, which have found their way into the mainstream political lexicon. He espoused an alternative economic paradigm which held that lack of remuneration in dry-land farming lay at the roots of poverty.

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