Politics in the time of floods

Updated: Aug 10, 2019, 07:50 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Opposition says government has been callous in handling the flood situation and also accuses it of wrongly tweaking the eligibility criteria for relief

Indian Army personnel rescue people stranded in flooded areas on the outskirts of Sangli in Maharashtra. Pic/AFP
Indian Army personnel rescue people stranded in flooded areas on the outskirts of Sangli in Maharashtra. Pic/AFP

Accusing the state government of callousness in handling a weeklong flood situation in western Maharashtra and tweaking the eligibility criteria for flood relief, the Opposition launched a scathing attack on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday. Making a casteist slur, it further said that the head of the state had the DNA of Peshva Bajirao II. The Congress demanded that Fadnavis and his Karnataka counterpart B S Yediyurappa should be booked for culpable homicide because they failed to manage the discharge of water that caused flooding and killed 37 people.

Congress campaign Chief Nana Patole, who quit the BJP during Narendra Modi's first term as Prime Minister, reacted to the CM's earlier statement that he (Fadnavis) did not take him very seriously, saying, "I welcome the fact that you don't take my statements seriously. But I must say that you should consider my rightful demand for better disaster management. And if you cannot do that, then, you should at least tell us whether you take the deaths seriously. You must act and save lives."

Patole added that when he alerted the CM about the natural disaster while he was on Maha Janadesh Yatra, Fadnavis said that he did not take him seriously. "Peshva Bajirao II too did not listen to the Athara Pagad Jati (people belonging to various castes) and did not help them when they were in trouble. Fadnavis also doesn't take people of the state seriously. He has the DNA of Bajirao II," he alleged. However, Patole's remarks did not evoke any immediate response from the CM or his party colleagues. "Fadnavis did not tell Yediyurappa to release water from Karnataka dams when it was needed most. How many more deaths does the CM want? He says the disaster would be tagged as a national calamity at an appropriate time. Does he need a muhurat to make that announcement?" he added.

Verbal war over eligibility

The Opposition further alleged that the BJP government had tweaked the eligibility norm under which flood relief was provided. Earlier, the families who faced the flood situation for seven days would get monetary relief but now it would be extended to those affected for two days. Opposition leader in the Assembly, Vijay Wadettiwar wants the government to revoke the decision.

Following a visit to the flood-hit areas along with state party president Balasaheb Thorat, he said, "The government machinery is inadequate for handling the situation. The decision regarding the eligibility criteria has mocked the affected people," he said. Wadettiwar came down heavily on CM's 'Man Friday' and water resources minister Girish Mahajan for indulging in selfies in the flooded areas. "Was the minister out there to help the affected people or indulge in some kind of tourism himself?" he asked.

Nationalist Congress Party boss Sharad Pawar has also alleged shortcomings in the disaster management efforts and demanded a farm loan waiver for the affected people. "This is for the first time that the government machinery is falling short of efforts. There are certain reasons as to why they are lagging behind. But I don't want to discuss them now," said Pawar.

Don't politicise: Uddhav

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray urged the parties to not politicise the issue. "Let's not put anyone in jail. Let's come out of the situation first," he said. However, he added that the Karnataka government should have started releasing water from Almatti dam two days earlier.

Opp is misleading: Shelar

School education minister Ashish Shelar denied any wrongdoing on part of the Maharashtra or Karnataka government. He said, "The Karnataka government is discharging 4,50,000 cusecs of water from Almatti dam. The Opposition is misguiding the people in a critical time like this. The quantity is 50,000 cusecs more than the required amount." "We are a sensible government and we are reaching out to the affected areas with every possible aid. The Opposition should stop politicising a natural calamity like this," he added.

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