Mumbai, March 11
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday sent Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan to begin talks with leadership of the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which has mobilised over 30,000 farmers to gherao the state legislature demanding a loan waiver.
With the farmers Long March from Nashik to Mumbai entering the city limits this afternoon, the Maharashtra government requested the farmers to halt at Vikhroli where they are to stay for tonight.
As they first batch of marchers entered the city, they were welcomed by representatives of several left organisations like the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, IPTA, etc.
Representatives of several Sikh organisations were also among those who welcomed the marchers as they entered Mumbai.
The protesters have planned to gherao the state legislature on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, Fadnavis requested the AIKS-the farmers’ wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to nominate five leaders with whom he could begin negotiations.
The chief minister had earlier refused to meet with leaders of the left organisation but later calmed down after it became clear that the number of farmers marching towards Mumbai had not dwindled over the past week.
Mahajan began talks with the farm leaders later in the afternoon at a building in the area, state government sources said.
According to the original plan announced by the leaders of the AIKS, the farmers will begin marching from Vikhroli to downtown Mumbai early Monday in order to reach Mantralaya, the state legislature, in the afternoon.
The AIKS has warned of an indefinite gherao of Mantralaya till the government fulfilled its demands.
Apart from farmers, AIKS has mobilised tribals in and around Nashik who are demanding implementation of the Forests Right Act in the state.
Meanwhile Fadnavis decision to field Mahajan, a junior minister, to hold talks with the farmers has given rise to speculation that the chief minister has fallen out with his senior colleagues.
Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, who had helped Fadnavis negotiate the farm loan waiver last year, is said to have fallen out with him while Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar has complained to party leadership against the chief minister.