Had anyone suggested that one day Ajit Pawar would be compared to Marie Antoinette, it would have been laughable. But the Maharashtra deputy chief minister’s recent statement about his own urine making up for the shortfall of water in the State is distastefully reminiscent of the infamous French queen’s proclamation “let them eat cake.” While Mr. Pawar’s statements are coarser, they are just as callous, if not grotesque, and very much in keeping with his self-proclaimed image of a “tagya,” or ruffian. It is convenient to have an uncle to apologise for you and the senior Pawar has done that on more than one occasion. This time, however, the brash nephew has overstepped the line and no apology from any quarter can mitigate this. Ajit’s remarks are especially cruel, coming from a man who headed the irrigation department in the State for a decade, during which, if the Economic Survey is to be believed, only 0.1 per cent of irrigated cover was added at a cost of Rs 70,000 crore. As the man at the helm of affairs, he had to quit last September, ostensibly not to influence a White Paper on the colossal mess.
The farce didn’t end there. After the government brought out its promised White Paper on irrigation, which was like a record of dams built in the State with little on corruption or mismanagement, Mr. Pawar sailed back into the cabinet by December 2012. At least three official investigation reports on the irrigation scenario in Maharashtra have exposed the deep-seated mismanagement and siphoning off of funds which plague the sector, and departmental inquiries are under way. It is difficult to believe that the buck stops with executive engineers or the heads of the irrigation development corporations. The State falls short of fixing accountability on the topmost decision maker, in this case, the minister himself, for who will bell the cat? The contractor-politician nexus is thriving and the rising number of contractors being elevated to public life is not a coincidence. What is doubly callous is that it is this same man who should have ensured the State’s irrigation sector is not floundering the way it is who has now made crude comments about a farmer making a simple demand — water for his fields. The other crude remark Mr. Pawar made was on electricity, or the lack of it. As power minister too, he could not keep his promise of ridding the State of load-shedding by last year. Ribaldry cannot erase his abject failure to improve the situation. Though the Nationalist Congress Party has sought to make light of Mr. Pawar’s ‘humour,’ the party and its ally, the Congress, should not underestimate the grave damage he has caused to the image of the government.