Monday, March 30, 2020
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Dear Devendra Fadnavis, we feel let down by inept handling of floods by your government

Chances of BJP gaining in the area now appears bleak, as opposition is all set to fight elections on the single issue of devastating floods

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Parts of Western Maharashtra, particularly Sangli and Kolhapur districts, are reeling under heavy floods for last 8 – 9 days, with water only starting subsiding since yesterday. With almost 80% of Sangli city, and about 50% of Kolhapur city submerged underwater as high as 15 feet, they virtually turned into Venice, with roads becoming rivers, the only difference was water was muddy and not as beautiful as Venice. All related consequences like snapping of electricity, unavailability of daily ration followed. Off course as you said, when it rains 700% of a month’s average, just in a week, there is little you can do, but what you could have done was to start timely response, and evacuation of people. Instead, you couldn’t gauge the seriousness of the issue, and remained busy in your ‘Mahajanadesh Yatra’ ahead of state assembly elections scheduled in October.

Even when yatra was first stopped, the reason given was the death of Sushma Swaraj, rubbing further salt to the wounds of the affected. While it’s true that while all BJP functions were cancelled following her death, you could have at least said that yatra is being cancelled due to the flood situation. Only on the next day, you cancelled your yatra to review the flood situation. It further took you another day to visit Kolhapur and review the situation there. While it is true that, visiting places don’t help people much, but it reassures people that government is there firmly behind you, and also keep the administration on its toes to step up their efforts. You only visited Kolhapur and cancelled the visit to more affected Sangli which was just 75 kilometres away, apparently due to bad weather but was forced to visit after two days, when NCP chief Sharad Pawar decided to visit Sangli. While we talk about urban areas, rural areas of these districts also suffered badly and because the rural areas are more scattered, compared to urban agglomerations, it was even more difficult to run rescue operations there.

All road, rail and air links to Kolhapur were snapped due to heavy rainfall. Even NH – 4, which connects Mumbai and Bangalore via Kolhapur, and is a part of the golden quadrilateral, is still under 4 feet water, with water rising up to 6-8 feet at peak. Traffic is still to start on this highway, which has left truckers and others stranded.

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Aerial photo showing National Highway 4 under water

It is reported that you took district collector and other officials to the task for failing in their duties, but people would ask questions to you as CM and not them. Your remark, “if needed, it would be declared national calamity”, further gave fodder to the opposition, which asked you, for what are you waiting to declare it as a national calamity, as these areas haven’t seen such unprecedented floods in the past. It also appears that state government hasn’t yet informed centre about devastating floods, nor national media has given much coverage to these floods, and therefore PM Narendra Modi or HM Amit Shah didn’t carry an aerial survey of affected parts, even though HM Amit Shah carried aerial survey of affected parts of Northern Karnataka, which is just a few kilometres away from Kolhapur, and reason of its flooding is excessive rains in Sangli and Kolhapur. Incidentally, Amit Shah happens to be the son-in-law of Kolhapur. Further, there was no coordination between Maharashtra and Karanataka governments, both led by the BJP, to release water from Almatti dam situated downstream on Krishna River in Karnataka, which further angered people more.

Remember the outrage created by the state government and people of Kerala last year, which forced the centre to act? While you can’t create an outrage because you are from the same party, what you could at least do was first cancel your yatra, and inform the centre through proper channels.

Photos of CM and local MLA on flood relief material

Then images of relief material carrying photos of you and your MLAs created further outrage and again gave fodder to the opposition. Girish Mahajan, one of your most powerful ministers, shot a video on the relief boat smiling which gave an impression that he was on flood tourism, however people won’t see his images of standing in neck-deep water and helping people, because their point has been scored.

These two districts are the most fertile area for Congress and NCP, and BJP couldn’t make much gains there even in 2014 at the peak of Modi wave. Only thereafter slowly BJP started making gains here, and enjoyed fair amount of success in 2019 Loksabha elections, hoping to further consolidate in upcoming assembly elections, chances of which now appears bleak, as the opposition is all set to fight elections on the single issue of devastating floods.

Dear CM sir, you handled all the unrest created by opposition be it farmers agitation or Maratha reservation agitation, very well in the past, but you failed to respond adequately and in a timely manner to this natural disaster at the fag end of your first term as CM. We still as BJP supporter pray to Mahalaxmi of Kolhapur to bless you with the second term as CM, as your record is quite satisfactory and blemish-free for last five years, except for this, but we would have appreciated that your firefighting here, should have been just like as we have seen in the past.

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