Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on Monday apologised for his controversial comments on water shortage and loadshedding saying that he had hurt the sentiments of the people as well as the Legislature.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar with party leaders after a meeting in Mumbai on Friday. PTI/Santosh Hirlekar
Making a personal clarification after the Lower House witnessed noisy scenes and two adjournments over his remarks, Pawar admitted that he should have used his words carefully.
"My comments on Saturday were not directed towards drought affected people and I had no intentions to hurt anybody's sentiments," he clarified.
Pawar, who is the state energy as well as finance minister, said the state government has accorded top priority to drought relief measures and the government stand has been made clear in this year's budget provisions as well as debates in the Legislature.
The state government is committed to provide water, cattle fodder and waiver of students fees in drought affected areas. "I hope my comments will not affect the drought relief measures. The relief works will continue vigorously," he said.
Opposition members continued to shout slogans against Pawar even as he was making the statement. After the statement, Speaker Dilip Walse Patil adjourned the House for 30 minutes.
"If there is no water in the dam...Should we urinate into it?" Ajit Pawar had asked in a comment made on Saturday at an interior village in Indapur tehsil of Pune that kicked up a controversy for mocking farmers reeling under severe drought.
The NCP leader followed up this comment laced with crass humour with another remark poking fun at load-shedding in the state stating, "I have noticed that more children are being born since the lights go off at night. There is no other work left then."
The Opposition had earlier stalled the proceedings forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House twice.
Protests against Pawar's remarks had seen Sudhir Mungantiwar, Devendra Phadanvis, Nana Patole (all BJP) and Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) moving to the well shouting slogans against the deputy CM.
Girish Bapat (BJP) said what Pawar had said amounted to an insult of drought-affected people.
"We should be allowed to raise the issue in the House," Bapat said, to which the Speaker responded saying a discussion could be held after Question Hour.
However, the House had to be adjourned for 30 minutes and later for an hour as Opposition members continued shouting slogans against Pawar.
Earlier, Pawar also apologised in the Legislative Council for his remarks.
"The state government is very serious about combating drought and helping drought-affected people. It is the topmost priority of the government to tackle drought," Pawar said in the Upper House amid huge uproar by Opposition members.
As proceedings began in the Upper House, Opposition BJP-Shiv Sena members trained guns on Pawar for his controversial statement by invoking Rule 289.
Leader of Opposition in the Council, Vinod Tawde, moved a proposal to hold a debate on Pawar's statement, which saw House chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh asking him to make a statement on the issue.
However, Pawar who was present in the House, told the chairman that he wanted to issue a personal clarification under Rule 47.
Pawar was backed by NCP legislator Vinayak Mete and minister of state for urban development Bhaskar Jadhav.
However, Tawde objected that "since Pawar is not a member of the House, he cannot clarify".
Chairman Deshmukh said that even if he is not a member, he can, as a minister, make a clarification in the House.
As the debate continued, the House was adjourned twice for twenty minutes each.
When proceedings resumed, Deshmukh granted permission to Pawar to clarify his stand.
But unhappy over the decision of the Chairman, Opposition members trooped to the well where they squatted in protest.
Subsequently, the House was again adjourned for 20 minutes and then for an hour.