Row over Devendra Fadnavis' image on flood relief material: Opposition accuses state govt of 'advertising itself' ahead of polls
Opposition parties on Saturday accused the BJP-led Maharashtra government of "shamelessly advertising" itself eyeing upcoming assembly polls, after it emerged that grain bags for flood victims in parts of Sangli district carried stickers with images of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and a BJP MLA. These bags containing rice and wheat bear stickers on which photographs of Fadnavis and Ichalkaranji MLA Suresh Halvankar are printed with a caption, "free rice and wheat distribution to flood affected families (August 2019)". Terming the allegations "false", the MLA said the opposition was levelling them because it is left with no issues in the wake of the government providing "speedy
assistance" to the flood-affected people.
Defending the use of the stickers, the MLA said that the move will help the affected people know that the food grain is being provided to them free of cost on behalf of the government. Senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said one has to have "some sense" about when and where to "advertise". "First, the government was not able to provide help on time. And now when the relief work has begun, it is being politicised, advertised. This is very unfortunate and height of shamelessness," he tweeted.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik echoed Chavan. "The BJP is ridiculing the flood-affected people. No matter what crisis they are faced with, the BJP has shown its campaign should go on," Malik said. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray accused the BJP of politicising everything. "MNS workers have also been engaged in relief work in the flood-ravaged areas. But our people are not showing off party label. They (the BJP) are doing this eyeing the polls," Thackeray told reporters.
NCP leader Dhananjay Munde charged the government with prioritising "self promotion" than providing relief to the affected people. "What the government has prioritised? Putting stickers. It did not provide relief to the flood-affected for two days so that the stickers could be printed. The children are out on the roads. "These people, however, are being prompt in printing their photos on the sticker. You will kill people out of hunger for the show off," the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council tweeted, along with the hashtag "selfish government".
Dismissing the allegations as "false and wrong", Halvankar said, "Given the people have lost everything they had, the chief minister took a revolutionary decision of distributing to the people food grain of the quantity which will suffice them for 15 days for free. "The stickers were put on so people will know the food is for free and none loots them".
The MLA further said the food is being provided through the public distribution system and that the ruling party has no role in it. On Munde's objection about the stickers carrying his photo too, Halvankar said an MLA is the chairperson of the ration committee of his constituency, a fact he said the NCP is "unaware" of. "The NCP is left with no political issue. The chief minister is sensitive.
He started central kitchen for the flood-affected people...they are trying to politicise such crisis out of desperation," he added. The Opposition parties have been accusing the state government of inept handling of the flood situation. Heavy rains have triggered floods in the rivers flowing in the western Maharashtra region, affecting districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune and Solapur.
Over four lakh people have been evacuated so far from the flood-hit areas, mostly from Kolhapur and Sangli, apart from Satara, Ratnagiri, Sindgudurg, Raigad, Thane, Nashik and Palghar districts. The death toll due to floods in the districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune and Solapur stood at 29 till Friday. Though the flood situation in Kolhapur and Sangli districts showed signs of improvement on Saturday as water started to recede, it would take at least two to three days before water could be discharged completely from these districts, according to officials.