Amid speculation that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led State government was considering halting ‘excess’ water supply for agriculture to the Baramati and Indapur talukas, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said any comment on the drought and water crisis must be made with extreme sensitivity.“The whole of Maharashtra is in the grip of an unprecedented water crisis. At such a time, there is a need to speak with extreme sensitivity on this issue. One must ensure there is no discrimination between different regions and talukas in the State as regards the distribution of water,” Mr. Pawar said, urging the government not to resort to politics over drought and water allocation.The NCP chief, who was on a tour of the drought-hit parts of Baramati, was responding to the rumours that State Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan was thinking of cutting the allegedly excess water supply from the Nira left bank canal to Indapur and Baramati.Mr. Mahajan has said that Baramati and Indapur — strongholds of the Pawar clan and Congress leader Harshavardhan Patil respectively — have been receiving more water than required. He implied that Mr. Pawar and his nephew, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, had tweaked rules to divert more water to Baramati when the Congress-NCP government was in power.The Nira project consists of a storage reservoir on the Yelwandi river near Bhatgar and two canals. The left bank canal, which originates from the Nira river at Vir, irrigates areas of Pune district, including Baramati and Indapur, and parts of Solapur district. The right bank canal irrigates some other tehsils in Solapur.Mr. Mahajan said more water was diverted to the left canal that passed through Baramati and Indapur, while areas in Solapur district like Malshiras, Madha and Sangola were left high and dry.“The local MP from Madha and other leaders from Solapur district have complained that five talukas are receiving only 40% water from the Nira left bank canal, while Baramati and Indapur are receiving the remaining 60%,” Mr. Mahajan told a vernacular television channel. It is believed that the newly elected Madha MP Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar and other leaders from Solapur like Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil, son of former NCP MP Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, met the minister on this matter. According to rumours, Mr. Mahajan is expected to issue an ordinance on this matter soon. The move, if implemented, is seen as a stratagem on part of the BJP to break the Pawars’ stranglehold on Baramati ahead of the Assembly elections.Ajit Pawar, who toured Baramati with his uncle, said, “I have yet to hear anything said by Mr. Mahajan on this issue. I am not aware if such a decision has been mooted… But the government should know that there are people living on both sides of the Nira canal.” Senior Congress leader Harshavardhan Patil, whose bastion is Indapur, however warned of a strong agitation if such an ordinance comes into effect. “The Water Resource Department has no right to take such a decision, if at all it is being mulled. Indapur and Baramati are catchment areas. If water supply to these talukas is going to be stopped, we will be compelled to launch an agitation and take legal recourse,” Mr. Patil said.
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