The politics of drought in Maharashtra | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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The politics of drought in Maharashtra

mumbai Updated: Mar 05, 2013 01:33 IST

At least one third of Maharashtra is facing severe drought with hundreds of villages being supplied drinking water through tankers. To say that the situation is bad could be an understatement. There is no official mechanism to check the quality of this water but it is likely that it won’t be much different to the tanker water used in several Mumbai buildings for non-potable purposes. And there is no guarantee that even this water will be available till mid-June when the monsoon is expected to start.

With no means of livelihood available, a large number of small farmers and farm labourers are migrating to major cities in search of employment. With this kind of situation in the state, one would expect the politicians to keep aside their differences and petty politics and do something that could provide relief to the drought-affected people. But then, we don’t know our politicians well. With Lok Sabha and assembly election scheduled to be held next year, most of them are busy using the opportunity to score over each other.

If they really want to do something, there are a lot of things they can do besides organising aid for drought-affected areas. Nobody is convinced that the hundreds of crores of rupees of taxpayers’ money earmarked for drought-relief work would be utilised honestly. There are hardly any checks on the money being spent on supply of water through tankers — how many trips each tanker makes on paper and what actually happens on ground? How many works are supposed to be taken up for providing employment to the poor in drought-affected areas remain only on paper yet funds spent for the same? How much money is siphoned off in the name of cattle camps and whether the cattle left by farmers are actually given enough fodder and water? Unfortunately, none of the politicians, especially from the Opposition parties, have done this. In case of ruling parties, the less said the better. Congress leaders think their job is over with pointing fingers at the NCP and holding the irrigation scam responsible for the severe water scarcity. As far as the NCP is concerned, well, is anybody expecting them to do anything?

Raj versus Ajit
There was surprise when Raj Thackeray suddenly launched an attack on NCP’s No 2 and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar during his statewide tour. In the past few years, Raj’s targets were north Indians, the Shiv Sena and the Congress. NCP and Pawars used to figure once in a while. This was why there was surprise when Raj came down heavily on Ajit. The NCP apparently tried to reciprocate in MNS-Sena style. For about a week, the Raj versus Ajit war became a talking point. Analysts are trying to figure out what could be the motive behind this. A popular theory is that, both Raj and Ajit are doing it deliberately to get political benefit: MNS can split the opposition votes which could help the NCP in electoral battle. In 2009 elections, then Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan had used the MNS’ influence on the Sena-BJP voters for the benefit of the Congress, which won the highest number of seats in the state — both in Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Things have changed now.

Political circles are full of talks about cordial relations between CM Prithviraj Chavan and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray. Knowing that Chavan may not have any tacit understanding with the MNS, Ajit is using Ashok Chavan’s trick.

It appears now that the two sides have decided not to get into a high-voltage war as they are being criticised for not being serious about drought. But this could be a temporary ceasefire, feel political experts.