Ajit Pawar, RR Patil lash out at BJP, SS over loan waiver

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Nagpur, Mar 5 (UNI) Maharashtra Minister for Water Resources Ajit Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil today lashed out at the opposition BJP-Shiv Sena combine for its criticism of the loan waiver for farmers holding up to five acres of land, announced by the union government last week.

Addressing a mammoth rally of farmers hosted by the NCP here, Mr Pawar and Mr Patil said the BJP and the Shiv Sena had no moral right to speak about the problems of farmers because none of their leaders knew anything about farming.

Mr Pawar said, ''Nobody in the family of Shiv Sena working President Uddhav Thackeray, including earlier generations, has ever held even a sickle in their hands. Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray does not know what farming is.'' The BJP and the Shiv Sena were leveling wild charges against the Congress and the NCP because both the saffron parties were scared that the people would back the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the forthcoming polls because of the decision of loan waiver, he said.

Mr Patil said the saffron alliance had lost the moral right to speak on the issue as it had made fun of farmers' suicides when in power (between 1995 and 1999).

''The BJP-Shiv Sena government had waived Rs 12 crore as entertainment tax for a performance by rock star Michael Jackson in Mumbai. When asked how they could make such a decision when farmers were ending their lives in the state, they replied that it was so because Jackson had come and danced, and no farmer would perform a dance routine!'' The senior Mr Thackeray had claimed that farmers were committing suicide because of illness and heartbreak, Mr Patil said.

Shiv Sena should first tender an unconditional apology to all the people of Maharashtra for making fun of the distress of cultivators, the Deputy Chief Minister said.

Alleging that Vidarbha's backlog of development had increased when BJP leader Nitin Gadkari was the minister for public works in the erstwhile saffron government, Mr Patil said, ''Why was Mahadevrao Shivankar, who held the irrigation portfolio, made to resign? Mr Shivankar had all his attention focused on the Krishna Valley projects, and doled out contracts merely for the sake of it, not for any development.'' UNI AB SR PD AS1949

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