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It is water that creates poll ripples in desert state

November 25, 2008 12:52 IST

For voters in this part of Rajasthan, it is water and farmers' issues which seem to be on the top of their minds as they ponder over whom to elect in the December 4 Assembly polls.

A severe shortage of drinking water and the Vasundhara Raje government's handling of the farmers' agitation for water seem to be influencing the electorate in the assembly segments of Dantaramgarh and Sikar.

The CPI(M), which only has one representative in the assembly, hopes to strike a chord with the voters, raising the issue of development and the difficulties faced by farmers.

The party's candidate from the Dantaramgarh constituency of the Shekahwati belt, Amraram, hopes to woo voters with the promise of development.

"The Raje's administration killed 100 farmers by allowing the police to fire to contain the farmers' uprising," he alleged, adding "We are the only party which represent farmers

and workers of the state. It is time for change," Amraram, the only MLA representing his party in the current assembly, said during one of his campaign speeches.

Making a pitch to voters, the party is telling the voters that it had "ensured that Raje's government rolled back many of its anti-people decisions".

CPI(M) contestant from the Sikar constituency Abdul Qayyum said, "We ensured that nobody has to work overtime under the NREGA scheme. We also ensured that the government pays the minimum wage of Rs 100 to everyone."

In this semi-arid district and Jhunjhunu, there are six pending irrigation canal projects and 11 drinking water supply lines. The major sewage line project is also pending.

"The result is that more than 1,000 hectares of farming land receives inadequate water with much difficulty. Owing to the fact that there is no separate sewage line, our irrigation water is contaminated with sewage. The sand ensures thatsewage also seeps into the water table below the ground, which we drink," said Ramesh Shekhawat, a farmer.

Some voters like 62-year-old Ramni Devi, a resident of Chakmithai village, told PTI, that she and her son had approached the village headman complaining about the lack of water when their crop got destroyed during September this year.

"However, we were advised to contain our emotions and the sarpanch cited the example of four farmers being shot dead during the same month for taking more water for irrigation. We do not want to live in a regime of fear," she said.

Three-time sitting MLA from the Sikar constituency Narayan Singh Chaudhary of the Congress also blamed the Vasundhara Raje administration for the pending projects in the area.

"I had brought it several times to the Chief Minister's notice and that of the state irrigation minister but every time they gave me a false assurance that the issue will be resolved. This is nothing but politics by Raje," he said.

For the BJP, it is a tough fight in this region, which has been a Congress stronghold.

The saffron party's contestant from Dantaramgarh Pushpa Kanwar is a first timer. Her husband had lost when he fought in the last assembly polls.

BJP's state spokesman B K Lakhawat said that the party was highlighting development issues because that was the "reality" in the state.

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