Lok Sabha elections 2019 Phase 2 voting: Long-running drought and farm crisis are main election issues in Maharashtra
Polling will be held for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra’s Marathwada and Vidarbha regions on Thursday amid a growing water crisis. The government declared 90% of villages in Marathwada’s eight districts drought-hit last November and December. Over 60% of villages are facing drought in three Vidarbha districts of Akola, Amravati and Buldhana, which are among the constituencies going to polls in the second phase of the general elections.
Among the main candidates in the fray are former Maharashtra chief ministers and Congress leaders Ashok Chavan (Nanded) and Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur), Dr BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar (Solapur and Akola) and former union minister Gopinath Munde’s daughter and sitting MP Pritam Munde (Beed).
Maharashtra has the most seats, 48, after Uttar Pradesh (80). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 23 seats while Shiv Sena won 18 in the last Lok Sabha polls in the state.
The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party won six between them.
Bhagwat Pawar, 75, a farmer, said he has not yet decided whom to vote for even as he attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Osmanbad last week.
His priority remains how to deal with drought. “I have seen the 1972 drought when we had water but no food. [During] recent droughts from 2012 to 2014, there was a scarcity of water. But it is worse than that. Almost all of us own land, but do not have water… how are we going to sustain until it rains?”
Residents say water sources are rapidly drying up. “We wake up at 4 am to ensure maximum water is fetched from a public bore well. We get a couple of pots of water after waiting for 4-5 hours,” said Anita Munjal, 45, a resident of Mardi village.
Ashok Tangade, who works for Jagar Pratisthan, an NGO, said no party is talking about the issue and none has done anything significant for the drought-prone district.
YR Jadhav, a former advisor to the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, said the voters in the rural areas are in distress and do not have sufficient money to make ends meet. “They do not have the luxury of comparing the [performances of the] incumbent and previous governments before voting. The resentment is expressed through votes and it could go against the ruling party [BJP].”
Vidarbha-based farm expert, Vijay Jawandhiya, said most elections are fought on the lines of caste and creed and not the real issues.
“There is discontent among farmers and others in rural areas over crop losses, absence of minimum support price, inflation, rising unemployment. But ultimately voting is done in the name of caste, which is supreme over anything else for voters,” he said.