Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar
on Sunday apologised for ridiculing a two-month-long protest by a farmer, who is demanding dam water for his parched field.
"There is this person from Solapur, sitting on hunger strike for 55 days demanding water be released from the dam. But where are we going to get water from? Should we urinate? And when we are not getting water to drink even urine is not coming easily," Mr Pawar had said at a rally in Indapur, Pune, on Saturday.
Yesterday, in a statement, Mr Pawar said he is sorry for "hurting sentiments of people in Maharashtra with his comment". "These remarks were not made for drought-affected people," he said.
Mr Pawar is the nephew of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Commenting on the shortage of electricity, Mr Pawar made another controversial remark. "I have also come to know that since there is a shortage of electricity in Maharashtra, the population is increasing," he said.
As the crowd laughed, Mr Pawar added, "All of you must be thinking that I have taken (liquor) in the day itself."
Prabhakar Deshmukh, the farmer Mr Pawar ridiculed, said the minister had insulted the people of Maharashtra. (Watch
Mr Pawar was to hold a rally in Pune on Sunday, but it was cancelled. The NCP is tight-lipped on the issue, but party leaders are reportedly shocked by Mr Pawar's statement. "Even as a joke, this is just unacceptable," a senior leader said.
The BJP too slammed Mr Pawar. "Instead of saying that I stand by the public he makes comments like this. This is the lowest of low in Maharashtra politics," BJP leader Shaina NC said.
The Maharashtra government says the state is reeling under the worst drought since 1972. Most affected are the districts of Solapur, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Pune, Satara, Beed and Nashik.
Ajit Pawar had to resign after allegations were levelled against him in the Rs. 70,000 crore irrigation scam as he held the irrigation and water resources portfolio for a nearly a decade. However, the party reinstated him later.