Two opposition chief ministers Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal have tweeted support for senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who has said he will "not budge" from a police ground where he was detained yesterday, till the demands of farmers of the region are not met. Mr Sinha has accused the Maharashtra government of his party, the BJP, of apathy towards farmers of the Vidarbha region.

"Despite the police announcing that we all have been released from detention we decided to stay here... we will go wherever the police will take us, but till all our demands are met... our protest will continue," Mr Sinha said on Tuesday afternoon.

Photos showed the 79-year-old leader sleeping on a wooden cot in the open ground last night, surrounded by farmers.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has tweeted, "I am concerned about @YashwantSinha Ji former Union Finance Minister in jail. I am sending our MP Dinesh Trivedi to meet him. @YashwantSinha is fighting for the cause of farmers. He has our full support."

"Why has Sh Yashwant Sinhaji been arrested? Insane. He shud be released immediately," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said also on Twitter. 

Pavan K Verma, who is the national spokesperson of the Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally, said it was "worrying that senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has been arrested in Akola, Maharashtra, on orders of a BJP government, for the crime of protesting against the administration's apathy towards cotton and soybean farmers in Vidarbha."

Yashwant Sinha, former union finance minister, is leading a protest by hundreds of cotton and soyabean farmers who are demanding compensation for damage to crops by pests. They also want the government to procure the entire crop produced by a farmer.

A senior police officer said Mr Sinha and about 250 farmers were detained at around 5:30 pm on Monday for blocking a road for over three hours and to prevent them from surrounding the district collector's office. He said they were released at around 9:50 pm but had refused to leave.

The senior BJP leader told NDTV 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, adding that his protest is not political.

"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.

Mr Sinha, whose son Jayant Sinha is a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, is seen as a dissenter in the BJP, often taking a contrarian view. Most recently he said the implementation of new national tax GST by the centre was flawed.

In his speech to the farmers on Monday, he 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."

 

 

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