Amidst news emerging of an imminent floor test in Maharashtra, the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena have lodged their MLAs in five-star hotels to prevent poaching by the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, one lone ranger, CPI (M) MLA Vinod Nikole from Dahanu defied the trend and was seen crusading for farmers’ rights in Palghar and Thane districts yesterday, despite requests from the three parties to place him in luxurious safety.

Ashok Dhawale, President of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and member of CPI (M) central committee confirmed that the party and Nikole had declined the offer. “We received a request from all three—Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena—that he should be lodged in one of the hotels where they are keeping their MLAs. We told them clearly and politely that we don’t require this, we are capable of looking after our MLA,” he told The Citizen.

Terming the lodging of MLAs in hotels as a “lockup,” Dhawale stated, “It’s like a lockup but only in a 5 star hotel, that’s all. Unfortunately, it is because all the parties are not sure what will happen because of poaching and what not.”

Dhawale further stated that Nikole was with him the whole of yesterday, touring six tehsils in Palghar district to demand compensation for the crops that had been destroyed due to unseasonal rainfall. “There were thousands of farmers waiting at every place we visited, before the Tehsildar office or SDO office, and we addressed them regarding this compensation and also the Forest Rights Act implementation and other issues,” he said.

“So instead of staying in five-star hotels, we were there with the people,” Dhawale told The Citizen. Meanwhile, Nikole has been told to switch off his phone to prevent any contact.

Winning the only seat in the name of the Left in the state assembly elections held in October, Nikole defeated BJP MLA Pascal Dhanare by 4,742 votes. CPI (M) had reportedly held the Dahanu seat since 1978, only losing to the BJP in 2014.

With declared assets of Rs. 51,082, going by numbers, Nikole is the ‘poorest’ among the 288 MLAs elected to the assembly this year. The son of a farm labourer, Nikole dropped out of school to sell vada pav and tea to help alleviate his family’s financial constraints, as reported by The Week. He now lives with his wife Babita, his parents and two children.

Nikole has been working for the party for the past 15 years. A member of the CPI(M) state committee, he is also the state secretary and the district secretary (Thane-Palghar district) of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). He was previously a member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) state committee.

Hailing from a tribal region in Maharashtra, farmers’ distress remains an issue close to Nikole’s heart. He was reportedly one of the 40,000 farmers who marched the 200 kilometres from Nashik to Mumbai in March 2018, as a part of the AIKS rally organised to highlight farmers’ issues.

Thus, while the rest of the MLAs have been removed from public space and lodged safely in five-star hotels, Nikole was addressing farmer demonstrations from 11 am to 11:30 pm with Dhawale and others from the CPI (M) party, covering Palghar, Dahanu, Talasari, Vikramgarh and Wada districts in Maharashtra.

Dhawale stated there was no question of lodging MLA Nikole in a hotel as the political decision had been taken. “We will be voting against the constitutional motion tomorrow. That means, we will be voting against the Fadnavis government,” he told The Citizen.

“What (Devendra) Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar have done is the height of political immorality, chicanery, and corruption. This is very evident from the fact that Ajit Pawar has now gotten a clean chit on nine counts on the irrigation scam which was worth about Rs. 70,000 crore,” said Dhawale.

“The same BJP and the same Fadnavis, who has many times gone on record saying that Ajit Pawar’s place should be in jail on counts of corruption, now he takes Ajit Pawar as his Deputy CM. And within one day the only work he does is to give him an Anti Corruption Bureau clean chit for such a huge irrigation scam. This money belongs to the people of Maharashtra,” he continued.

The tussle for political power and government formation in Maharashtra has the country on the edge of it’s seat. Terming it a “breakdown of constitutional machinery”, Dhawale expressed confidence in tomorrow’s trust vote and stated that it will reveal which side the people’s representatives were truly on.

“The CPI (M) demands that the governor must be recalled immediately… This government must go at the earliest. That is the mood of the people too,” he told The Citizen.

Speaking about the anti-poaching move taken by the three parties, Dhawale asked, “Why should any MLA be placed in a hotel?” “This is actually a commentary on the very low level of our public life. The root cause of it is the venal role of money in politics,” he stated.

As per reports, the Congress is hosting its MLAs in JW Marriott hotel in Juhu. The NCP has moved its MLAs to The Renaissance hotel in Powai, including Rohit Pawar, the grand nephew of party-leader Sharad Pawar. Shiv Sena MLAs have been lodged at The Lalit hotel.

Meanwhile, Vinod Nikole has chosen to remain with the people in his constituency instead of in five-star luxury.