Two days after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) boss Sharad Pawar took up for distressed cotton farmers, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan declared that he would get a national project status for the much-delayed Lower Painganga (also called Penganga) dam in Yavatmal district. The region in central-eastern Vidarbha is the hotbed of farmer suicides.
A national status to the project would mean the Centre funding 90% of the Rs 10,429 crore project. CM asked officials concerned to release Rs50 cr for the initial work. Currently, Vidarbha has a national project in Gosikhurd near Nagpur, which is far from finished.
In political circles, Chavan's move is seen as a desperate attempt to score brownie points over union agriculture minister Pawar, who won accolades from cotton growers when he asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to lift the ban on cotton export. Chavan's declaration came in absence of senior NCP leaders who head the finance and irrigation departments.
While Pawar and NCP saw a sudden surge in popularity among farmers, the delayed reaction from Chavan and Congress received a lukewarm response.
State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, who is under fire for his party's dismal performance in the recent local self-government polls, came up with a proposal to expedite the Lower Painganga irrigation project. Thakre hails from Yavatmal district.