After accepting his nephew Ajit Pawar’s resignation, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar has cleverly put the ball in the Congress’s court, triggering a new tussle between the alliance partners.
Pawar told a media conference on Friday that the irrigation department’s role was not limited to supplying water to farmlands. He said the department has to ensure adequate water for urban and rural areas, industry and power generation units.
In response to this, the Congress ministers heading departments concerned – agriculture, industry, revenue and urban development - are prepared to reveal information they claim would put the NCP in a spot. But they want CM Prithviraj Chavan to back them entirely.
State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said, “The Cabinet had asked the irrigation department to present the paper in a revised format. The CM is not at all responsible for delaying the white paper.” Last week, Chavan told HT that the irrigation achievement was a mere 0.1% and not 5.17% as claimed by the NCP. He wanted the white paper to set guidelines for further expenditure in irrigation sector.
Some Congress ministers HT spoke to said that they were prepared to fight the NCP’s latest salvo because they had information that would further embarrass the NCP. They expect this strategy to work effectively when Ajit Pawar calls the shots from outside the government. Pawar will continue to lead the NCP in the Legislature and in the organisation to further step up the anti-Congress sentiment ahead of the next Assembly polls.
Agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who had already countered the irrigation department’s claim in Cabinet meetings, told HT on Friday, “There has to be a coordinated effort to fix accountability that has not been established so far. This will ensure transparency and benefit stakeholders.”
According information that HT reviewed, the irrigation department never sought clearances from the agriculture department while offering more water for non-agriculture purpose.
“There are dams exclusively built for drinking water, but most of the dams were built for agriculture. And they kept on increasing allocation for non-agriculture purpose and did not increase its potential, denying existing water to farmers,” said a note from the agriculture department.
Similarly, other Congress-led departments in question too are expected to retaliate strongly. “We are all prepared to tame the NCP provided the CM stands firm behind us,” said a senior minister, requesting anonymity.