Criticising the inordinate delay in Cabinet expansion and the “insensitivity of the two-man government” of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis towards farmers, Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar on Tuesday said despite farmers being hit hard owing to heavy rains, no Central team had yet come to assess the damage to Maharashtra’s croplands.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Mr. Pawar, who returned from a four-day tour of rain-hit districts in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, asked Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis whether they were awaiting a green signal from the BJP-ruled Centre to carry out the long-pending Cabinet expansion in the State.
“Even after a month, there is no sign of the Cabinet expansion. What is the reason for this delay? Are they not getting a ‘green signal’ from Delhi, or are they having problems adjusting the aspirations of all the MLAs in the new government?” Mr. Pawar mocked.
Stating that owing to this delay, Mr. Shinde had kept all portfolios to himself and was taking the responsibility of 42 other Ministers (strength of Maharashtra Cabinet), he stated, “As a result, several files are pending.”
Alluding to Mr. Shinde’s frequent meetings with veteran Shiv Sena leaders to secure their support following his rebellion, Mr. Pawar remarked, “While heavy rainfall has destroyed more than 10 lakh hectares of croplands, the Chief Minister is busy with other things.”
Mr. Pawar, the former Deputy Chief Minister in the erstwhile tripartite MVA government led by Uddhav Thackeray, said that it seemed the CM and the Deputy CM had not yet informed the Central government of the scale of destruction of Maharashtra’s agricultural land owing to rains, the result being that a central team had not come down for damage assessment, thus delaying the relief for farmers.
“Damage assessment has not been completed. Because a government has not been formed, no one is ready to say when farmers will get the aid.”
He further criticised Mr. Shinde’s function in Aurangabad recently, pointing out that it went on way beyond the 10 p.m. norms.
“If the head of the government breaks rules in this manner, then what can the Commissioner of Police or the Superintendent of Police do?” said Mr. Pawar.
The NCP leader, who had earlier demanded that the new government immediately declare a ‘wet drought’ in the State, warned that the kharif sowing season had already passed and urged the Chief Minister to ensure compensation for farmers before the start of the rabi season.
Mr. Pawar has demanded that the government give a compensation of ₹75,000 per hectare for crops and ₹1.5 lakh per hectare for fruit orchards, while waiving the education fees of children of the distressed farmers.