Mumbai: For BJP’s Maharashtra chief Raosaheb Danve, an election meeting in his constituency Jalna last week served as a reminder of the difference in priorities for voters and those who woo them ahead of polls. Danve’s audience, which consisted mostly of party workers and locals, was quick to desert him as a weak cry of ‘paani aaya’ (water has come) rend the air during his speech.
For those living in the region, water scarcity and droughts are key election issues but no leader has addressed them yet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held four rallies in Maharashtra’s drought-hit areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada before the first phase of voting, focused on nationalism, Hindutva and attacking political opponents.
In his first-ever election rally in Maharashtra’s Wardha, Modi spoke for over 33 minutes, with more than 12 minutes dedicated to the Congress and NCP. Mission Shakti, the ‘chowkidar’ slogan and other government schemes too figured in his speech but he paid just lip service to the drought situation, refusing to spend even a minute on it.
The condition is worse in Nanded and Latur where the Prime Minister held rallies in April, but none of his speeches focused on the prevailing scenario or relief measures.
Similar was the case with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned in drought-affected districts but hardly spoke on the issue, choosing instead to train his guns on the BJP.
In October 2018, the Maharashtra government declared drought in 151 tehsils of Marathwada and Vidarbha. The situation has worsened in the past six months with districts such as Aurangabad and Beed depending on water tankers since December last year.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is facing criticism over the Jalyukt Shivar, his pet project, which aimed at making 25,000 villages drought-free by 2020. Though villagers take the campaign seriously and are offering ‘shramdaan’, there has been no change on the ground. Farmers and cattle-owners of rural Maharashtra are the worst-hit and have been demanding fodder camps for the past four months.