Social activist Anna Hazare - who yesterday cancelled his hunger strike in support of farmers protesting the agriculture laws, after meeting senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis - must clarify his position on this issue, Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena said Saturday in party mouthpiece "Saamna".
"... it looked like Anna is taking a stand over it (the farmers' protest against the agriculture laws). But he pulled it back so we don't really know what is his stand...," the Sena editorial said.
Attacking the centre for "trying to destroy the farmers' movement" and treating farmers "as if they are some international criminals", the editorial reminded Anna Hazare that the protesters would have gained courage had he followed through with his initial declaration of support.
"What does Anna really think of the farm laws? Does Anna support those who are battling on the Delhi borders? Who is he siding with? At least let Maharashtra know this," it added.
"Old farmers are protesting on the borders. Anna should have stood by them. Sitting in Ralegan Siddhi (around 120 km from Pune) and playing with BJP leaders is pointless," the Sena said.
"I have been raising the farmers' issue for three years... they die by suicide because they don't get the right prices for their crops...the government has decided to increase the MSP (Minimum Support Price) by 50 percent - I have got the letter," he told reporters.
Today the Sena asked several pointed questions of his U-turn, indicating that Anna Hazare appeared to easily "satisfied by BJP leaders' assurances... that is his problem".
"Why was Anna Hazare going to protest? Was it to give his support to farmers? That is unclear. If it was against the Modi government, then he should have come forward openly."
"The farmers' issue is a national one. The government is trying to destroy their movement. The government has stopped water and electricity at Ghazipur (a protest site on the Delhi border) ... as if they are some international criminals. A lookout notice has been issued against them as if they are economic offenders. What does Anna have to say on this?" the Sena asked.
The Sena, which is in power in Maharashtra on the back of a tenuous alliance with the Congress (and Sharad Pawar's NCP), also pointed out that when the Congress-led UPA held the reigns at the centre, Anna Hazare "came to Delhi twice and did a strong agitation".
"The BJP added fuel to that... but in the last seven years, the Modi government did demonetisation to lockdown and public was at a discomfort. But Anna did not say a word. So does he only protest during and against the Congress government?" the editorial asked.
Anna Hazare's hunger strikes in Delhi in 2011 and 2012 galvanised millions across the country against institutional corruption.
"Political parties used him... looking at his age (83) he should not risk hunger strike but any protest by him is important, hence BJP leaders run to him," the Sena said.
Lakhs of farmers across India have spent the last several weeks demanding the centre repeal laws passed by parliament in September amid unprecedented chaos and allegations.
The situation exploded on Republic Day when groups of farmers and others clashed with police during a tractor rally that turned violent. Police had to resort to firing tear gas and lathi charges to control the situation. One farmer died and hundreds of cops were injured.