Drought-hit Maharashtra was today virtually left high and dry after it demanded a Rs. 2,200-crore relief package from the Centre with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking it to exercise fiscal discipline, giving fodder to the opposition Shiv Sena to hit out at the ruling Congress.
An all-party delegation of MPs and MLAs from Maharashtra, led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, which met Singh was told by the Prime Minister to exercise fiscal discipline through proper use of allocations made by the Planning Commission, state leaders said.
Congress MP Vijay Darda said the Prime Minister told the delegation that Maharashtra "will have to ensure rpt ensure discipline". Darda said he pointed out the problems in the Vidharba region which was witnessing suicide by farmers despite visits by the Prime Minister and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi, who had visited the drought-affected areas of Maharashtra last month, had just yesterday met the Prime Minister to seek relief measures for the area.
Deputy Leader of BJP in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde regretted that Maharashtra was not given any immediate assistance by the Centre to tackle the problem of scarcity of water, fodder and for providing employment inspite of the fact that the state was facing one of the worst droughts in years.
Munde told Singh that Maharashtra needed some immediate assistance and only providing funds for long-term plans will not help the situation.
Taking a dig at the ruling Congress, the Shiv Sena said had it been Mamata Banerjee, "she could have extracted Rs 2000 crore in two minutes."
"The entire Maharashtra Cabinet led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan could not secure even ten rupees from the Prime Minister despite spending 10 minutes with him. But if it was Mamata Banerjee, she could have extracted Rs 2000 crore in two minutes," Shiv Sena leader in the Rajya Sabha Sanjay Raut told reporters.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is a key ally of the Congress-led coalition at the Centre and has emerged as one of the most troublesome partners in recent times.
Raut said that it was wrong on the part of the chief minister to "go with a begging bowl" to the Centre, which should have come forward on its own to help Maharashtra.
He alleged that the attitude of the Centre during the all party delegation's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today was not only disappointing but one showing bias against the state.
Besides Chavan, several Maharashtra ministers at the Centre and in the state, including deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar were present during the deliberations with the PM in which the state demanded Rs 2,200 crore package from the Centre.
Leaders, including Praful Patel (NCP) wanted the Centre to give pending funds under the AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme) totalling Rs 1,000 crore to the state.
The Prime Minister told the state leaders that they should send their demands and suggestions to the Committee on drought situation which has Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar as its member, they said.