Under fire from the Opposition for his insensitive remarks on drought and load-shedding, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Monday tendered an apology in both Houses of the state legislature, which witnessed uproarious scenes and repeated adjournments.
Pawar's crass humour at a public meeting on Saturday had the Opposition up in arms against him in the Legislative Assembly and Council, forcing the deputy chief minister to issue a personal clarification apologising for his remarks.
"My comments on Saturday were not directed towards drought-affected people and I had no intention of hurting anybody's sentiments. I hope my comments will not affect drought relief measures which will continue vigorously," he said in the assembly, where the Opposition twice forced adjournment of the proceedings.
Ajit, nephew of Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, admitted he should have chosen his words carefully.
"The statement made by me on Saturday, April 6, during a programme was not intended towards the drought- affected people. Also, it was never my intention to hurt anybody’s sentiments," Pawar told the Legislative Council.
"It is true that I should have spoken responsibly," said Pawar, adding since the sentiments of the people and legislators had been hurt, "I apologise to all".
"We are committed to providing water to the drought-affected people, fodder for the cattle and fee-waiver for the students," he said as the furious Opposition disrupted the proceedings, forcing the chair to adjourn proceedings thrice.
"If there is no water in the dam, should we urinate into it," he had said in an insensitive comment at a function at Indapur near Pune. The comment kicked up a controversy in the state, which is reeling under a severe drought.
The NCP leader followed it up with another remark poking fun at load-shedding in the state, saying, "I have noticed that more children are being born since the lights go off at night. There is no other work left then."
NCP boss Sharad Pawar too apologised for the controversial comments by his nephew, terming them as "unwanted".
"I duly apologise on the behalf of the deputy CM of Maharashtra for the unwanted comment that he had made," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The Opposition had earlier stalled the proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House twice.
Protests against Pawar's remarks had seen Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Sudhir Mungantiwar, Devendra Phadanvis, Nana Patole and Shiv Sena legislator Eknath Shinde moving to the Well, shouting slogans against the deputy chief minister.
BJP legislator Girish Bapat said what Pawar had said amounted to an insult of drought-affected people.
"We should be allowed to raise the issue in the House," Bapat said.
The Speaker said a discussion could be held after Question Hour.
The House had to be adjourned for 30 minutes and later for an hour as Opposition members continued shouting slogans against Pawar.
Earlier, Pawar also apologised in the Legislative Council for his remarks.
"The state government is very serious about combating the drought and helping the drought-affected people. It is the topmost priority of the government to tackle drought," Pawar said in the Upper House amid huge uproar by Opposition members.
As proceedings began in the Upper House, Opposition BJP-Shiv Sena members trained their guns on Pawar for his controversial statement, by invoking Rule 289.
Leader of Opposition in the Council Vinod Tawde moved a proposal to hold a debate on Pawar's statement, which saw House Chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh asking him to make a statement on the issue.
Pawar, who was present in the House, told the Chairman that he wanted to issue a personal clarification under Rule 47.
Pawar was backed by NCP legislator Vinayak Mete and Minister of State for Urban Development Bhaskar Jadhav.
Tawde objected, saying, "Since Pawar is not a member of the House, he cannot clarify".
Chairman Deshmukh said that even if he is not a member, he can, as a minister, make a clarification in the House.
As the debate continued, the House was adjourned twice for twenty minutes each.
When proceedings resumed, Deshmukh granted permission to Pawar to clarify his stand.
But unhappy over the decision of the Chairman, Opposition members trooped to the Well, where they squatted in protest.