Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s question whether people should urinate to create water for the drought-affected Maharashtra has evoked criticism across the State, and is seen as ridiculing the protest by a drought-hit farmer and the larger issue of water scarcity.

Speaking at a public function at Indapur on Saturday, he said: “There is this person from Solapur, on a hunger strike for 55 days demanding that water be released from the [Ujani] dam. But where are we going to get water from? Should we urinate? And how will we do that when there is no water to drink?” The statement sparked a loud laughter from the audience.

He was referring to Bhaisaheb Deshmukh of Solapur, a drought-affected district in western Maharashtra, who has been protesting for two months on Azad Maidan in Mumbai, demanding water for the villages from the nearby Ujani dam, whose waters are allegedly diverted to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s Dynamix Dairy.

Mr. Ajit Pawar, nephew of the Union Agriculture Minister, was criticised for what was called a crass statement.

In an apology issued on Sunday evening, Mr. Ajit Pawar said: “The statement… was not about the drought-affected people, but if I have hurt the feelings of people, I apologise with humility.” The statement enumerated the efforts made by the government to ease the situation, which has been called the worst drought since 1972 by Mr. Sharad Pawar.

Commenting on the electricity shortage, Mr. Pawar said: “I have also come to know that since there is a shortage of electricity in Maharashtra, the population is increasing. People have nothing to do without electricity,” amid much laughter.

The Opposition, including the BJP, criticised the comments, and sought Mr. Ajit Pawar’s resignation. “The Opposition is determined to get his resignation. Saying sorry is not enough,” Leader of the Opposition Vinod Tawade of the BJP said.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray targeted the senior Pawar for his nephew’s “irresponsible” statement. “Mr. Pawar projects the image of being the son of the soil. Does he know what his nephew who is supposed to look after the State is doing” he asked.

The Aam Admi Party said Mr. Ajit Pawar’s statement showed his true face. “A corrupt politician who has no empathy for the citizens, and to have such a man in a leadership role is disaster for the State. What is even more shocking is that his statement was met with a resonating laughter from the NCP spectators,” spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said.

Mr. Pawar’s statement also received harsh criticism from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. Speaking at a rally at Jalgaon, he said: “How can the Deputy Chief Minister use such dirty language about the people of this State? The people of the State should show what they can do. When people are suffering in drought, he had no shame in showing no responsibility for it, and instead used such foul language. He has no shame, and… he will buy votes during election time. Do not fall prey to it.”