Days after the Bombay High Court ordered the Maharashtra government to release water to the Ujani dam in Solapur, Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said the decision earlier to not release water was right.
"The state government was of the opinion it would take a decision after April 15. It's not going to rain till June. Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad face the prospect of drinking water scarcity. So the state government took a cautious approach. They have now complied with the court's order. If the monsoon is delayed beyond June-July, we will ask the court to show us the way," Mr Pawar said.
He said the state government was holding water in the dams upstream to fight water scarcity in Pune, which has a population of 35 lakh, Pimpri-Chinchwad, where 25 lakh people live, and other smaller cities.
Baramati in Pune district is Mr Pawar's stronghold and there have been allegations that NCP politicians are diverting water to their business interests.
NDTV had earlier reported how water was being diverted to Vithalrao Sugar factory run by four-time legislator and local NCP strongman, Babanrao Shinde. When asked about Mr Shinde, Mr Pawar said: "The information is not correct. I must have gone to that area at least half a dozen times, including the Ujani dam."
Mr Pawar dismissed the allegations, saying: "If the water was kept for that area, why will they not use. If agriculture is getting water from a canal in Baramati, I am not taking that water alone. The five lakh farmers engaged in agriculture are also using that water. It's not a question of any individual or any NCP leader. It is a question of the entire district."