Home >Opinion >Online Views >Maharashtra Newsletter | Ajit Pawar’s Marie Antoinette moment

Mumbai: Making fun of one Prabhakar Deshmukh, a Solapur farmer who had been on an indefinite hunger strike for close to two months demanding release of water from Ujani dam, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar last week asked whether the ministers should urinate to generate water in the dam. He was speaking at public function at Nimbad, a tiny village in Indapur tehsil of Pune district.

At the same meeting, when people complained about frequent power cuts, Pawar promised to look into this as ‘load shedding’ is leading to the rise in population as in darkness people have nothing else to do but indulging in “baby-making" activities.

Many in the western state find in Pawar’s funny statements an echo of “Let them eat cake"—“Qu’ils mangent dela brioche", commonly attributed to French Queen Marie Antoinette, upon learning that the peasants had no bread.

The queen’s remarks led to the French revolution, but in this case, Pawar is unlikely to be ousted from the Cabinet. This also may not lead to the defeat of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government—which have been ruling the state for past 13 years—in next year’s assembly election. But one thing is for sure that the elected representatives in the western state have no connectivity with the masses.

Nimbad is a tiny village with less than 1,000 households but that did not come on the way of spreading news like a wild fire. Most regional newspapers and TV channels have correspondents or stringers at taluka level, equipped with gadgets and knowledge of how to play up such stories.

Unaware of this, Pawar made the casual remarks in a banal attempt to be funny but it went horribly wrong.

Those who appeared on television channels on behalf of NCP, tendered their apology for Pawar’s remarks but, at the same time, they also tried to defend them saying use of such a colourful language in public discourse is not something new in Maharashtra. They even cited the examples of Acharya Atre, playwright, poet, journalist, film producer and director, a leading figure of Samuykta Maharashtra movement; the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.

These leaders might have made some vulgar remarks but they were targeted at certain individuals and not at the public at large, in severe distress due to drought.

Pawar’s remarks have given the Opposition a stick to beat with and they are likely to use it from every possible public forum—a rally, protest march, state legislature and press conference. This will make life difficult particularly from the NCP whose ministers—irrigation minister Sunil Tatkare, public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and tribal welfare minister Vijaykumar Gavit, besides Pawar himself—are all facing serious graft charges.

Pawar in particular, along with Tatkare, have been receiving a lot flack from social activists and media for their alleged involvement in 70, 000 crore irrigation scandal. Pawar is also being held responsible for not doing enough to alleviate the drought’s worst effects.

On Saturday Union agriculture minister and Pawar’s uncle and NPC president Sharad Pawar rejected the Opposition demand for Pawar junior’s resignation and made it clear that he is the boss and he will decide his nephew’s fate, not party’s legislators.

Pawar Sr. is, however, not amused with the reckless remarks of his nephew as he had to tender an apology for for second time in two years. Last year, Pawar Jr had asked party workers to beat the media persons, especially those from electronic media if they paint him and NCP in a negative shade—something which did not go down well with his uncle.

All major political leaders in the have called the current drought worse than that of the 1972 and one-third of Maharashtra is being affected. Instead of saying sorry to people for not being able to provide water, Pawar Jr wanted to have some fun in ridiculing people. Now only the duo of Lord Vitthal, the reigning deity of the state, and Varuna, the god of rain, can save Maharashtra.

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