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