MUMBAI: Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha was detained by the police in Maharashtra's Akola on Monday evening while protesting against what he called the government's "apathy" towards farmers of the Vidarbha region. Mr Sinha, whose party is in power in Maharashtra, told NDTV this morning that he along with protesting farmers are still at the police headquarters and "will not budge till our demands are met."A senior police officer Rakesh Kalsagar said Mr Sinha was detained at around 5.30 pm on Monday and was released around 9.50 pm, but he and the others were refusing to leave the police headquarters ground where they were taken. Photos showed the 79-year-old leader sleeping on a wooden cot in the open ground last night.
"We detained Mr Sinha and around 250 farmers outside the district collectorate as per provisions of section 68 of the Bombay Police Act," Mr Kalasagar said.Yashwant Sinha, a former union finance minister and whose son Jayant Sinha is a union minister, is leading a protest by hundreds of cotton and soyabean farmers who are demanding compensation for damage to crops due to pests. They also want the government to procure the entire crop produced by a farmer.
The senior leader said this morning that he has had no word with his party colleague and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. "Neither has he reached out to me, nor have I tried to talk to him," he said.
Mr Sinha - who has often taken a contrarian view within the party, most recently criticising the implementation of new national tax GST by the BJP government at the centre - said he did not wish to turn his protest into "party politics." He was in Akola he said because he had promised to help farmers in distress if their demands were not met, which, the BJP leader said, were not."I will not get involved in party politics. The important thing is that farmers get relief...I don't want to get diverted from the farmer's issue. This has nothing to do with any politics," he asserted.In his speech to the farmers on Monday he had said, "Before coming to power, the BJP had promised to give 50 per cent over and above the minimum support price (MSP). But after coming to power, the party forgot the promise."District Magistrate Aastik Kumar Pande told reporters, "Yashwant Sinha and the Shetkari Jagaran Manch were protesting in Akola, they were on a dharna. We tried discussing the issue with him but he continued to the dharna so he was detained by the police. We have accepted six of his seven demands and promised discussion on the seventh demand. "