‘Arrogant BJP’s Sun Will Set in 2019’: Ex-NDA Partner Raju Shetti 

After exiting the NDA in 2017, Maharashtra MP and farmers’ leader Raju Shetti is seen cosying up to the Congress. 

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Not many would know that prior to the Telugu Desam Party's (TDP) fallout with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), it was the Maharashtra-based Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) that had quit the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling alliance in August 2017, becoming the first constituent to do so.

Helming the SSS is Raju Shetti, an MP from Hatkanangale constituency in Maharashtra's Kolhapur, who announced the decision to part ways with the NDA, citing central and state government's neglect of farmers' issues and agrarian distress across the country.

In the recent days, Shetti is seen cosying up to the Congress, as he met the party President Rahul Gandhi on 19 March, in the presence of Maharashtra Congress President and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to "discuss an action plan for tackling the agrarian crisis".

In a tell-all interview to The Quint, Shetti talked about the 'false promises' of the Modi government, which prompted him to leave the coalition, predicted the electoral fortunes of the saffron party in 2019, while remaining non-committal about his political trajectory in the near future.

'Have Never Seen Such an Insensitive Government'

Shetti's party had joined the NDA in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, in which he was re-elected from the Hatkanangale Lok Sabha seat. Before becoming an MP in 2009, Shetti had been an MLA as an Independent from the Shirol Assembly constituency. A prominent face in western Maharashtra, Shetti has led several protests against sugar barons in the region.

He told The Quint that when joining hands with Modi, he had put forth a number of demands for the welfare of the farmers, including formation of a drought relief commission and provision of funds for irrigation from the centre, among others. However, he pointed out that the situation has only worsened after four years of the Modi government coming to power.

He (PM Modi) had said the condition of the farmers was really bad and he assured me of change. However, after four years, the situation has only worsened. In my 20-year-old political career, I have never seen such an insensitive government. 
Raju Shetti

'Arrogant BJP's Sun Will Set in 2019'

When asked about a sentiment of discontent shaping up against the BJP – with Chandrababu Naidu's TDP walking out of the NDA and the relations with Shiv Sena also not looking too well – Shetti expressed happiness about it, as he called out the "arrogance" of the BJP leaders.

The BJP leaders, including Modi, have become very arrogant. They think that the sun will never set in their empire. But they should know that after a sunrise, there’s always a sunset. They won’t have any allies left, and will be all alone after 2019.
Raju Shetti

Predicting the fortunes of the saffron party in the 2019 general elections, Shetti said that they will get less than 200 seats, remaining the single-largest party, but far from getting a majority.

'Loan Waiver Isn't the Only Solution'

The primary response by different governments to farmers' agitations has been to hand out loan waivers. However, as several experts have pointed out, loan waiver is not a viable solution. Accepting this line of argument, Shetti said:

If one has to make farming beneficial, then (providing) loan waiver and increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) are the primary measures. However, along with that, farmers need access to technology. There need to be better storage facilities. Moreover, if the yield is more than required, then there should be measures taken to properly handle it.
Raju Shetti

'Won't Join Any Alliance Without Putting Forward Our Conditions'

While there are speculations that Shetti might finally join the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the SSS leader remained non-committal about what his political leanings would be in the near future.

There has been no discussion (with the UPA) yet. We won’t join any alliance without putting forward our conditions... These parties are like two sides of the same coin. I am in politics just to help the farmers, but others just want to garner their votes. And I’ll work for farmers by luring these parties with their votes.
Raju Shetti

Even though he criticises the BJP for giving hollow assurances, Shetti did go on to say that he would be willing to re-join the NDA if they implement the several pro-farmer policies demanded of them.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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