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For PM’s Maha Visit, Farmers Detained, Roads Blocked, Yet Modi Ignored Voters' Concerns

During the prime minister's visit in Maharashtra, farmers remained detained from morning until evening. However, instead of addressing the actual concerns of the voters, Modi harped on the “asli” and “nakli” (real and fake) Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party.
A BJP rally in Maharashtra. Photo: X@narendramodi

Mumbai: On May 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on a day-long visit to Maharashtra. During this visit, just five days before the fifth and final phase of elections in the state, Modi began the rally from Dindori in Nashik, later headed to Kalyan in Thane district, and finally concluded his roadshow in Ghatkopar in Mumbai. The visit, originally planned to reach out to voters, ended up in multiple arrests and preventive detentions, cancellation of metro trains during peak hours, and roadblocks causing massive chaos in the city.

In Nashik, hours before the prime minister could arrive, over 50 farmers and activists were detained by the city police. The farmers had planned to congregate at the site of Modi’s rally later in the day to mark their protest against a series of anti-farmer decisions and the 40% export duty levied on onions last year. Soon after, in December, the Centre also imposed a ban on onion export following unseasonal rain and hailstorms.

Maharashtra alone contributes 43% to the nation’s onion yield. Of the total onion production in Maharashtra, 10% comes from the Nashik district. Lasalgaon in Nashik is home to the country’s largest onion wholesale market. In the midst of the general elections, the Centre decided to lift the ban, but only with additional restrictions. The exporter must now pay $550 per metric tonne to the government, an amount that farmers feel would only further exploit their already precarious condition.

While the farmers remained detained from morning until evening, Modi completely overlooked the actual concerns of the voters here. Instead, he harped on the “asli” and “nakli” (real and fake) Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party.

In the past years, both parties faced major crises, with many MPs and MLAs joining hands with the BJP. The disintegration of these parties was contested before the Election Commission, and the BJP was accused of using central investigating agencies to pressurise opposition leaders to switch sides. Finally, the factions that joined hands with the BJP eventually retained the party symbols.

Also read: The Pre-election Swoop Is the Central Agencies’ Latest Trick Against Opposition Leaders

At the rally, Modi said: “Both the ‘Nakali’ (fake) Shiv Sena (led by Uddhav Thackeray) and Nakali NCP (led by Sharad Pawar) will be merged into Congress. They think that by merging smaller parties into Congress, the INDIA bloc will at least be able to form a formal opposition in the Lok Sabha,” he claimed. He maintained radio silence on the protesting farmers detained not far from where he was delivering his election speech. Those detained were released after Modi left the city to head towards Kalyan, the constituency represented by Shashikant Shinde, son of state chief minister Eknath Shinde.

Hours before Modi finally made his way to Ghatkopar in Mumbai, metro train services were suspended in the area. Ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s roadshow, authorities decided to suspend train services between Jagruti Nagar and Ghatkopar stations as a “precautionary measure.” This move, intended for security reasons, however, was not announced in advance. Many commuters found out about the suspension of services only upon reaching the station. In many videos that went viral on social media, irate commuters could be seen questioning the authorities for making such an uninformed decision.

Train services were suspended and  main routes around the station were also blocked. The BJP had planned a roadshow for Modi which stretched over 2.5 kilometres between Ashok Silk Mills in Ghatkopar (West) to Parshawanath Chowk in Ghatkopar (East).

Ghatkopar, which has a sizeable population of Gujarati and Rajasthani migrants, remains a staunch supporter of the BJP. Only two days before Modi’s visit to Ghatkopar, an illegal 120 x 120 square foot hoarding had collapsed in the area, killing 16 persons and seriously injuring over 70 more.

While Modi was campaigning just 3 kilometres away from the disaster site for the party candidate Mihir Kotecha, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) continued their rescue efforts.

Of the 16 deaths, two bodies were recovered hours after Modi’s visit. The operation, which went on for 66 hours, was called off only on Thursday morning, May 15.

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