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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Be it drought or flood, insensitive politicians galore!

Politicians are the same across the board and care little for the distressed masses they are supposed to represent and take care of, says the author

mumbai Updated: Aug 13, 2019 23:54 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Girish Mahajan was recently in the news after being caught on camera dancing even as Maharashtra deals with floods. Mahajan was celebrating the Union government’s decision to scrap Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Girish Mahajan was recently in the news after being caught on camera dancing even as Maharashtra deals with floods. Mahajan was celebrating the Union government’s decision to scrap Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.(HT FILE)
         

Several years ago when there was a severe drought in Maharashtra and even as a farmer sat on a dharna to demand more water for his village, then deputy chief minister (CM) Ajit Pawar had callously asked, “Should I urinate in the dams?”

There was never a more crude or insensitive statement than that. The outraged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena had burnt his effigies, demanding an apology forthwith.

Today, the boot is on the other foot but I am amused to see Ajit Pawar is still having his effigies burnt for doing and saying the right things. And burning those effigies are still the BJP workers whose party is now ruling the state.

Firstly, they should not be having to burn effigies of an opposition leader and, secondly, they should realise how that exposes the chinks in their own armour — you really cannot do anything about a drought but you can at least manage the consequences of a flood with some good administration.

But, that is exactly what has not happened ever since parts of Maharashtra have faced severe downpour and flooding.

Quite apart from the fact that the Devendra Fadnavis government has found itself incapable of dealing with this natural calamity, there was also much insensitivity to the people’s plight on display.

There is not much the government could have done to save the crops of the farmers under the circumstances, but at least rescue and rehabilitation measures could have been undertaken with alacrity and compassion.

Now Girish Mahajan, the water resources minister of Maharashtra who is also guardian minister of Nashik district was caught on camera dancing with abandon even as the Godavari flowing through Nashik had swollen and was causing havoc and devastation in its wake.

To be fair to Mahajan, he was not dancing to celebrate flooding or the drowning of many people in its wake.

In the midst of all that rain, the Union government had announced the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and Mahajan took to dancing to celebrate that decision.

However, that might not have been quite the right, or sensitive, thing to do given that people were drowning in his own backyard and Ajit Pawar lost no time in calling out the minister for his insensitivity.

Now, this is why I believe drought or flood, Congress-NCP or Shiv Sena-BJP, politicians are the same across the board and care little for the distressed masses they are supposed to represent and take care of. But, far from expressing contrition, Mahajan went on the offensive suggesting to Ajit Pawar that he should have been equally happy about the Kashmir decision. And when Ajit was still not amused, Mahajan had his effigies burnt in Nashik.

Despite the BJP’s massive mandate in May and the complete possibility of a Congress-NCP rout in the coming Assembly elections, the episode only goes to show that it is still the latter which has the political gravitas to recognise the seriousness of faux pas of this nature and the consequences that the display of such insensitivity or the lack of compassion could have in the party.

For, whether he meant it from the heart or not, Ajit Pawar had undertaken a fast at the foot of a statue of YB Chavan, the first chief minister of Maharashtra, to atone for his despicable statement.

Mahajan, though, has gone on the offensive, not realising that it makes him look both silly and insensitive.

In view of Sharad Pawar’s phone call to Narendra Modi for flood relief and his fund collection for help to farmers, the chief minister looks even more incapable and helpless weeks before Assembly elections are due in the state.

However, more than one Congressman has told me ruefully in the past week, “They [Sena and BJP] never seem to do anything right by the people and yet they keep winning elections. We can only do our little bit but the entire official machinery is with them. So what choice do we have?” Although that might be true, it also stands to reason that people do not forget slights easily and dancing on the streets while they are drowning is particularly macabre. I tend to think the ruling dispensation is going down the same path that the Congress-NCP have over the past years.

People have a tendency to bide their time and strike while the iron is hot. Isn’t the Congress-NCP still burning at the people’s stakes after their misadventures of the past decades?

First Published: Aug 13, 2019 23:54 IST

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