APMC Polls in Maharashtra
by Ajit Patil

The three black laws on agriculture had to be withdrawn by the Union Government due to a united, heroic and determined protest on the borders of the national capital. The State of Maharashtra, then under the MVA dispensation, had moved and passed similar bills despite opposition by the farmer’s organizations and political parties from the left, and also had to withdraw them.

Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) “reforms” were a major part of the scheme under these laws to dovetail the marketing mechanism for agricultural produce into corporatization of agriculture. However in Maharashtra such reforms had already been initiated from 2013-14 onwards.

Maharashtra had the APMC elections in April against this backdrop and in the context of the usurpation of power using money and manipulation by the central agencies like ED and CBI at the behest of the BJP. The breakaway MLAs from Shinde Shiv Sena (SS) – who are described in local parlance as Khokabahaddar and Gaddar - were to face the rural electorate for the first time after coming to power. The electorate in this case consists of the members of the Gram Panchayats and the Multi-purpose Co-operative Societies.

These elections were fought by the two alliances: BJP/Shinde SS and the MVA. The issues related to the on-going agricultural crisis, the demand of the farmers for fixation of prices on the basis of the Swaminathan formula and extending the protection to many more types of agricultural produce, continuing farmers’ suicides, rising input prices and availability of affordable finance, issues confronting the rural poor, artisans, landless and poor marginal farmers and agricultural labourers and the havoc caused by the unseasonal rains did not figure in the campaign by MVA. Though apparently ignored, these underlying issues were an inevitable part of the narrative which was to influence the voting pattern. Though money power was used widely to purchase and sway the voting, the results in themselves are clearly indicative of the will of the farmers and their anguish and rage.

The numbers are out. Though the BJP has won the highest number of the APMCs if compared on a party basis and increased its tally in the number of members in the APMCs compared to the last elections, MVA has emerged clearly ahead as a coalition: 76 out of 131 bodies. The ruling alliance of BJP and Shinde SS has bagged 31.  Each body has approximately 18 members. The results are seen as a setback to the ruling alliance, especially for the Shinde-led Shiv Sena. In most of the constituencies of the 40 rebel MLAs from the Shinde camp, MVA fared well in the elections. Maharashtra Congress chief  Nana Patole said that the results of the APMCs were testimony of the angst against the ruling alliance. “It will reflect in the other elections too,” he said. But ironically, as an exception but also as an act of political rivalry, the NCP joined hands with the BJP to defeat the Nana Patole-led Congress panel!

The results of the APMC elections are definitely an indicator of the way things are turning against the BJP alliance and for the MVA. They will add an impetus to the efforts of the MVA to face the 2024 elections unitedly. They will also pose a Hamletian question before the NCP MLAs who, under duress of possible action by the ED etc, wish to move away from MVA.

APMC Polls in Maharashtra