It’s Shiv Sena vs Congress in Yavatmal district

Varun Aggarwal Yavatmal | Updated on April 04, 2019

Congress candidate Manikrao Thackeray during an election campaign in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district on Thursday   -  BusinessLine

The crowd cheered with enthusiasm outside the only tea stall in Ambhroli, a small village in the Vidarbha region, as the speaker highlighted the shortcomings of the BJP government and the possible nexus between Modi and Anil Ambani in Rafale fighter jet deal.

But the promise of farm-loan waiver and a minimum income guarantee of ₹72,000 a year drew the loudest cheer.

Manikrao Thackeray is a revered personality in the district of Yavatmal, the district with the highest number of farmer suicides in the past decade.

Thackeray’s popularity is not so much for his long career in State politics or because he’s a candidate from the Congress party, but because of strong anti-incumbency playing out in the region against ruling Shiv Sena MP Bhavana Gawali.

Thackeray trailed through several villages for his election campaign and drew large crowd each time he stopped at a village to deliver a standard speech. He criticised the BJP for making tall promises but falling short on each of them — Swachh Bharat, the promise of loan waiver and farm subsidies. And each time he repeated it in every village, there was a sense of acknowledgement from the crowd.

“Modiji is only giving chocolates in the name of development,” said one villager. A young man begged the Congress candidate to include the village as a part of the ongoing canal project. Thackeray pointed out the faults in the BJP government but he isn’t fighting the BJP in the district. It’s Shiv Sena, BJP’s ally for the polls. He’s facing a incumbent Gawali (popularly called Bhavana Tai in the region), who completed two terms as an MP from the district of Washim before winning two consecutive polls in Yavatmal.

Her charm as a young girl from neighbouring Washim, fighting on her father’s ticket, seems to be fading. Villagers from multiple villages complained she never visited them during her two terms, which is more upsetting to them than the lack of water or irrigation facilities in the region. Shiv Sena supporters said it’s not possible for her to visit each village as the constituency has more than 125 villages.

Thackeray has been visiting more than 20 villages for campaigning.

Refusing to take questions, Gawali said it is important to highlight the partnership between the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

High farmer suicide rate

Yavatmal district has the highest suicide rate in Maharashtra. A large number of farmers commit suicide here because of failed crops and their inability to pay back loans. Easy access to loans has turned into a major pitfall for them as the middlemen force them to take bigger loans.

Published on April 04, 2019

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