Pawar to seek special package for state

Nat

Taking a cue from the special packages given by the Centre for Bihar as well as Bundelkhand region, NCP leader and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a similar package for drought-hit Maharashtra, especially for the western Maharashtra region that is considered to be his stronghold.

Pawar was to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Singh earlier this week on April 30 on the subject but had to postpone it after the Congress leadership got bogged down by the crisis relating to Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and the CBI. According to sources, he is now likely to meet the Prime Minister this coming week in connection with the demand. The NCP has been one of the most steadfast allies of the Congress in the UPA.

The NCP chief has sought to make a strong case for Maharashtra which has been hit by unprecedented drought situation over the past two months. In March, Pawar had endorsed the financial package of Rs 1,800 crore sought by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to tackle the drought situation. Since then the situation has only worsened with the state government only hoping that the rains begin by this month end. The state so far has been trying to cope with the unprecedented demand by supplying water to the drought-hit districts through water tankers.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had last month made matters worse for the NCP when he made the controversial "urine to fill dams" remark that hit his image badly in the state.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh had last month toured Aurangabad and Jalna districts and sought central packages including interest-free loans for farmers of the drought-hit districts.

According to sources, Sharad Pawar got emboldened by the Centre's move to provide a special package of Rs 12,000 crore for Bihar that was routed through the backward grants relief fund. The sources, though, contend that the NCP chief is looking at a Bundelkhand-type package a Rs 4,000 crore deal that was effected by the UPA government after intervention by Congress scion Rahul Gandhi.

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