Drought tourism for netas in Marathwada

  • Surendra P Gangan, Hindustan Times, Latur/Mumbai
  • Updated: May 15, 2016 01:04 IST

It’s a flood of VIPs in Marathwada’s Latur district — among the regions hit worst by the severe water scarcity the state is facing.

In the past few weeks, three former CMs, a former deputy CM and two party chiefs have made their way to the parched district.

And, the show is set to get bigger, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party organising a massive rally on Sunday, which all its 22 MPs will attend.

So far, former CMs Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan and Narayan Rane, former deputy CM Ajit Pawar, MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and leaders of the opposition, Dhananjay Munde and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, have visited Latur, Osmanabad and Beed, to speak to villagers and slam the state government for poor relief work.

The NCP’s stance: comparing CM Devendra Fadnavis’ administrative skills with that of Sharad Pawar’s and how his government handled the 1993 Killari (in Latur) earthquake by setting up special cells. The NCP has demanded that a mini-Mantralaya be set up on the lines of that special cell.

After his visit last week, leader of opposition in the state council, Dhananjay Munde, submitted a memorandum to Fadnavis, asking for special administrative units to be set up for the next two months.

“It is the failure of the administration that the intensity of the drought has been on the rise day by day. The then chief minister Sharad Pawar had set up a special cell at Latur during the 1993 earthquake and also made sure two of his ministers, Padmasinh Patil and Vilasrao Deshmukh, sat at Latur and the neighbouring Osmanabad,” Munde said.

The Shiv Sena slammed its ally’s policy. Its chief Uddhav Thackeray demanded a complete loan waiver for farmers in distress.

The Congress’ Narayan Rane, on Friday, had demanded an ex-gratia of Rs25,000 each for all farmers as relief.

The BJP, sensing it was fighting a lonely political battle, is now all set for its Sunday show. After visiting farmers across villages through Saturday, the party has organised a Jaljagaran (water awareness) rally at the Ambedkar grounds that is expected to be attended by at least 20,000 people.

“We have asked each of our MPs to visit at least three district councils so that we cover all 58 circles in the district. The MPs will visit villages, talk to farmers to understand their situation and try to make villagers aware about the schemes and initiatives our government has launched. The district party unit has launched many initiatives, including a 50% grant to set up water-harvesting units for farmers and planting 1.50 lakh trees,” said Shailesh Lahoti, BJP’s city president for Latur.

In its effort to convince people about the government’s concern, the BJP will cash in on its decision to bring water to Latur by train — so far, 6.5 crore litres of water have come from Miraj. Sources said it will also boast about watershed management projects under its Jalyukta Shivar scheme.

But for political observers in the region, the focus is not so much on this year’s drought, as it is on next year’s civic polls in Latur.

“We have no representation in the municipal corporation of Latur. We will bat on projects implemented by the government and try to gain political ground in the city and even in rural parts,” said a state-level BJP leader, not wishing to be named.

Political analyst HM Desarada said, “Both governments are equally responsible for the plight of farmers. The Congress-NCP rule ensured benefits went to contractors, while the incumbent government is implementing disastrous schemes like the Jalyukt Shivar. I don’t think any party has contributed enough to boast.”

Amit Deshmukh, Latur MLA and son of former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, said he does not think his political rivals will bank on initiatives like bringing a water train.

“It is a time to coming together rather, instead of gaining political mileage in the wake of the drought,” he said.

The Latur municipal corporation, which will go to polls next year, does not have a BJP corporator. In the 70-seat body, there are 50 corporators from Congress, 12 from NCP and eight from the Shiv Sena and RPI.

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