MUMBAI: Extending support to the agitating farmers, NCP chief Sharad Pawar today asked them to continue the stir till their demands are met, drawing criticism from the BJP which claimed he was "provoking" farmers.
Pawar said cultivators have been forced to take to the streets as promises made by the government to them have not been fulfilled and maintained their agitation was not political in nature.
"I support the agitation as a farmer," the former Union Agriculture minister told reporters, even as he urged the protesters not to throw farm produce on roads and instead give it to the poor.
Farmers in the country are on a 10-day strike since June 1 demanding remunerative prices for their produce and waiver of farm loans. Farmers have been dumping their produce on roads as a mark of protest.
"Farmers have been forced to take to the streets to protest. Four years ago, farmers were promised support price of their crops which was 50 per cent higher than the cost of production."
"The assurance has not been fulfilled in the last four years. Loan waiver demand is also not new and the BJP had made this promise to farmers. They have been protesting to demand implementation of assurances," he said.
The former Maharashtra chief minister said people should understand that farmers have been forced to agitate and must lend support to their stir.
"They are unable to do farming in view of mounting debts which often result in suicides. All sections of the society should support farmers. This is not a political agitation but a struggle of farmers. Even though I am the president of a political party, I support the agitation as a farmer," Pawar said.
The veteran parliamentarian, however, appealed to cultivators not to throw their produce like milk on roads.
"Instead, they can give their produce to poor people," he suggested.
Pawar asked farmers to continue their agitation till their demands were met.
"The government doesn't seem to be interested in fulfilling promises made to them. Farmers need to take an extreme stand," the NCP leader said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader and chairman of the State Commission for Agriculture and Prices Pasha Patel criticised Pawar 's remarks.
He said Pawar held the agriculture portfolio at the centre for 10 years (2004-2014), but he was more interested in cricket administration than solving the problems of farmers.
Pawar had served as BCCI and ICC chief.
"Pawar's intentions are not good. For 10 years, he was the Union Agriculture Minister. But instead of solving farmers issues, he always had an eye on cricket and IPL. But after losing power, he is trying to provoke farmers. This is condemnable," Patel said.
Patel said instead of questioning the intention of the present (BJP-led) government, Pawar should explain why the condition of farmers remains bad even after so many years of his rule.
Patel accused the former defence minister of using farmers for votes and blamed the previous non-BJP governments for the agriculture woes.
The BJP leader said farmers are in a miserable condition because of the "sins" committed by the previous regimes.
"The intention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (Maharashtra) Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (towards farmers) is very clear. The loan waiver scheme (in the state) is being implemented in a transparent manner," he asserted.