Pune: Ajit Pawar, the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, apologised this morning for his crass and insensitive remarks about the water and power problems that are overwhelming his state's farmers in the midst of a severe drought. "Should we urinate to create water?" he had asked publicly over the weekend.
"We are very serious about drought relief," Mr Pawar said in the Maharashtra Assembly this morning. "My statement wasn't about those affected by the drought. But I should have used my words carefully. If I have hurt anyone's feelings, I apologise to the people and this house," he stressed.
The expiation is unlikely to have the desired effect. Even his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which co-governs Maharashtra with the Congress, has expressed its revulsion with Mr Pawar's comments.
At a rally over the weekend near Pune, Mr Pawar ridiculed a farmer who has been on a hunger strike for nearly two months. "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 don't have water to drink, it's hard to pass urine as well."
The audience laughed, encouraging Mr Pawar to then offer the lighter side of lengthy power cuts. "I have come to know that because power goes off in the night, many children are being born. When there is no power, people seem to have no other work."
The opposition parties have torn into Mr Pawar. On Twitter, the barrage of criticism has been continuous.
The farmer Mr Pawar spoke about said, "Ajit Pawar has upset all of Maharashtra. We voted for him, and he has to find solutions to the water shortage we are facing." (Read: Who said what)