Amid growing clamour for his resignation, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar sat on a day-long ‘atonement’ fast in Satara district on Sunday that drew jeers from the Opposition. Talking to reporters at the Yashwantrao Chavan Samadhi Sthal in the township of Karad, Mr. Pawar said his fast was “not a publicity stunt.”

The NCP leader, who has been in the centre of a raging controversy over his remarks on the water crisis in the State, said his act was an attempt at “penance”. He had lampooned a Solapur farmer on hunger strike, saying : “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?”

While Mr. Pawar’s attempts at self-introspection found support from his fellow party members, the Opposition pooh-poohed his fast as a stunt. “Instead of this drama, he [Ajit Pawar] should resign and work for the drought-affected people,” said senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde. MP Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana said Mr. Pawar’s policies resulted in the appalling conditions of the Ujani dam in the first place. Likewise,

Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray came down heavily on Mr. Pawar, remarking that he should have resigned from the Cabinet instead of fasting .