MUMBAI/PUNE: State deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar stirred up a hornet’s nest with comments — laced with crass humour — ridiculing the acute water and power shortage in parts of the state. He was forced to issue a public apology on Sunday after his remarks came in for all-round criticism .
Addressing a public meeting in a village in Pune’s Indapur last night, Pawar mocked Bhaiyya Deshmukh, a farmer from a drought-hit area in Solapur who has been on a hunger strike at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, demanding more water.
“He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” Ajit said.
Referring to the loa shedding situation in parts of the state, “I have noticed that more children are being born since the lights go off at night. There is no other work left then.”
The comments did not go down well with farmers and their representatives.Deshmukh said that the comments were “unbecoming” of a deputy chief minister. Member of Parliament and leader of the Swabhimaan Shetkari Sanghthana Raju Shetty said that farmers will not forgive Ajit Pawar for the crass comments. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, and opposition leader in the legislative council Vinod Tawade also lashed out at Ajit. While both Uddhav and Tawde claimed that the comments were a cruel and shameful joke on the drought-hit people, Raj said that the comments were driven by arrogance of power.
Both Tawde and Uddhav questioned NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s silence on the issue. Pawar, who visited Wardha on Sunday, distanced himself from the controversy claiming he had not heard what Ajit had said.
Sensing the public sentiment, Ajit issued an apology on Sunday evening. “We are committed to provide water, fodder and other relief measures like exam fee waivers to drought-hit citizens. I will continue making sincere efforts to extend all possible help to the drought-hit. While my comments in Indapur were not regarding the drought crisis, I apologise if public sentiments have been hurt by these.
“The need of the hour is to work unitedly to overcome the acute drought crisis. We must not allow elements who are keen to exploit the crisis to take advantage of the situation. I would like to apologise for the comments to ensure that these do not hamper drought relief work in any way.”