WASTING NO time after the four-phase Lok Sabha elections got over in the state, the NCP, it seems, is already gearing up for the Vidhan Sabha elections that are six months away.
The NCP has accused the state government of not doing enough to tackle the drought situation in many parts of the state.
The NCP chief, Sharad Pawar, has directed party leaders and office-bearers to “visit drought-hit areas and extend their best possible help to the distressed rural populace”.
Pawar convened a meeting of leaders from talukas in the state last week.
At the meeting, he directed office-bearers and leaders to visit drought-hit areas, take stock of the situation and put pressure on the administration to extend government help to the affected people.
A senior NCP leader said Pawar’s directives had activated the rank and file of the party, which was now gearing up for the forthcoming Assembly elections.
“Immediately after the fourth phase was over, Pawar visited Solapur district and took stock of the situation. After that, he held a meeting with party leaders and issued directives to them to support those affected by the drought. In a way, he has signalled that the party should remain in the good books of the people in view of the upcoming elections,” said the leader.
Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson, said the party was helping people affected by the drought as the state government had failed to take adequate steps to mitigate the situation.
“That is the reason why our party chief has asked leaders and office-bearers to put pressure on the administration to initiate steps to alleviate the suffering of the masses,” he said, adding that the party was not doing this with an eye on the forthcoming Assembly elections.
“We are doing this for the people, not for the elections,” he said.
An NCP delegation is also likely to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and submit a list of demands to tackle the drought.
Pawar’s statements have attracted a response from the BJP-led government.
While Pawar accused Fadnavis of not seriously tackling the drought, State Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Chandrakant Patil hit back alleging that Pawar was “politicising” the matter.
In Navi Mumbai on Saturday, Pawar said the Fadnavis government had failed to realise the gravity of the drought as there was a “nine-month delay in announcing the drought”.
He said the state government announced the drought only after he raised his voice against the government’s failure and started visiting the affected areas.
Denying that there was any delay in declaring drought, Patil said, “During the Congress-NCP regime, drought used to be declared in April. We realised that the situation was grim in October and started taking appropriate measures. The central team visited in November and the drought aid was announced then. But even before getting central funds, we disbursed Rs 4,700 crore as cash compensation to 67 lakh farmers. We have now received the central funds as well,” he said, adding that Rs 13,000 crore in total was being spent on the drought-hit areas.
Patil said the drought had affected 151 talukas and 28,000 villages.
“The government is well aware of the problems of drought-hit villages and has done everything possible to reach out to them,” he said.
He added that water, food and employment were on top of the government’s agenda.
Talking about Pawar politicising the matter, he added, “I don’t know what is wrong with the NCP chief. We have done everything possible to tackle the situation but he is not ready to accept anything; we are worried about him…”
The minister said Pawar was making statements on the basis of incomplete information. “He does not believe in EVMs. Neither does he believe in the judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the Rafale deal. He seems to have decided not to accept anything at all,” Patil said.