"There is this person from Solapur, sitting on hunger strike for 64 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."
After he bust into public consciousness last year after Ajit Pawar made derogatory remarks against him, farmer Prabhakar (Bhaiya) Deshmukh is planning to contest the assembly elections against the deputy chief minister from the later's pocket borough of Baramati.
Solapur-based Deshmukh was on a hunger strike at Azad Maidan in Mumbai to demand the release of water from dams upstream in Pune to the Ujani dam, which supplies water to Solapur and nearby areas to help provide succour to the drought affected areas when Pawar made these comments. Later, an outcry had forced Pawar, who is known for his acerbic tongue, to admit that these insensitive remarks were "the biggest mistake" of his political life. Deshmukh was in Mumbai on Thursday to solicit support from the Shiv Sena and BJP for his election bid.
"I am planning to contest from Baramati as a candidate supported by the Mahayuti," Deshmukh, who heads his Maharashtra Rajya Janhit Shetkari Sanghatana and is a director of the Bhima co-operative sugar factory in Solapur district which is controlled by NCP MP from Kolhapur Dhananjay (Munna) Mahadik, told dna.
He alleged that "the people of Baramati were under a reign of terror" and pointed to an audio clip of Pawar allegedly threatening that the water supply to the people of Masalwadi village would be snapped if his cousin Supriya Sule trailed in the Lok Sabha polls. Sule, the daughter of NCP chief and former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar won the family stronghold of Baramati against Mahadeo Jankar of the Shiv Sena- BJP affiliate Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) by over 70,000 votes which pales against her 2009 margin of over 3 lakh votes.
"This tendency must be stopped," said Deshmukh, who is also a member of the Mohol Panchayat Samiti in Solapur, adding that "the common people of Baramati are demanding freedom." In the Lok Sabha elections, Deshmukh had campaigned for the Shiv Sena and BJP and claimed that public anger over the water issue had led to the defeat of then Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde from Solapur against the BJP's Sharad Bansode.
"People were angry at the drought affected being ridiculed in such a way and hence, voted for the Mahayuti," said Deshmukh, referring to the victory of the opposition led alliance in 42 of Maharashtra's 48 seats. In the around 120 days agitation for water, Deshmukh had undertaken a number of protests like a fast, organised a morcha to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's official residence of Varsha on Malabar Hill, and also married off two donkeys.