The Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party smelt a rat after news of the CBDT's investigation into the election affidavits of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Aaditya Thackeray and NCP MP Supriya Sule began doing the rounds on television and social media. By an uncanny coincidence, the timing of the poll affidavit news coincided with the voting in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on three contentious agriculture bills.When the Bill was put to vote in the Rajya Sabha, the Sena abstained from voting, as it had done earlier in the Lok Sabha. But for the record, senior Sena MP Sanjay Raut demanded a special session to discuss the government’s strategy on doubling farmer income by 2022. In the Lok Sabha, former Union minister Arvind Sawant had taken a similar position.
Sawant told The Free Press Journal, ‘‘The party supported the intent and the principles of these bills. However, we suggested that the farmers should continue to get MSP even after signing agreements for contract farming. The agency should provide quality seeds and maintain that. But the government did not accept our suggestions and, therefore, we supported the bills but did not participate in voting.’
’The Shiv Sena’s ally NCP, however, walked out in the Lok Sabha as well as in the Rajya Sabha. The NCP has clout and dominance in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees and does not want the government axe to fall on these.
After food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned last week, Sule had accompanied Akali Dal MPs, supporting their opposition to these bills in the larger interest of the farmers. At the time of voting, too, Sule walked out of the House.
In the Rajya Sabha, veteran NCP leader and former union minister Praful Patel in his speech said the Centre should have consulted his party chief and former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar before tabling these crucial bills. However, Patel and other members were not present in the Upper House when the two bills were passed by voice vote.
Both the Shiv Sena and NCP have denied any link between their stand in the Parliament on the farmers’ bills and the CBDT inquiry into the poll affidavits of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeraya, Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray and NCP MP Supriya Sule.
Shiv Sena leader and Transport Minister Anil Parab has downplayed the CBDT action, terming it a ‘‘routine’’ move. Parab, who was the lawyer involved in preparing the affidavits of CM Thackeray and his son, said there was nothing new.
On the other hand, NCP leader and Minister of Minority Affairs Nawab Malik wanted to know why the three state leaders had been selectively chosen for the probe. ‘‘Is there a Centre plot to malign these three leaders?’’ he asked. He said they would reply to the CBDT after it sought their stand.