Mumbai: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and state revenue minister Eknath Khadse stirred up a controversy by stating that if farmers can afford to pay their mobile bills, why can’t they pay their electricity bills.
While addressing a press conference on Monday in Akola in Vidarbha, a region which has earned infamy for farmer suicides, Khadse said, “They (farmers) pay their mobile bills month after month because they do not want their phone connection to get disconnected. They know if their phone gets disconnected, they will not be able to speak to anyone...Right?"
"If they have money to pay their mobile bills, then why they do not have money to pay their electricity bills? They should make it a habit to pay bills and loans," he added.
Notably, Khadse’s controversial statements have come at a time when farmers across the state are troubled by unseasonal rains, hailstorms and drought-like situations and most of them are unable to pay up their electricity bills.
“We can provide the farmers with a discount but cannot waive the bills completely,” he added.
Khadse, who was earlier the firebrand Leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly had strongly asked the government to exempt the farmers from paying electricity bills.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena was quick to slam Khadse for his "insensitive" remarks.
“BJP ministers are emulating their counterparts in the erstwhile Congress-NCP government,” Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said while speaking to reporters at Nanded in Marathwada, a region reeling under water scarcity.
He further said, “If they make such "insensitive" remarks, there will be no difference between the present BJP government and the previous Congress-NCP administration.”
"BJP has become egoistic after coming to power...This is not right. What is the difference between Eknath Khadse and Ajit Pawar (NCP leader who too had made controversial remarks against farmers when he was a minister)?" he asked.
Reacting to Khadse’s insensetive statements, Congress MLA from Kankavli, Nitesh Rane said, “Khadse’s comments are extremely insulting for the farmers and are clearly indicative of how the language and tone change when in power. People should take note of this.”
“Our stand is that electricity bills of farmers should be completely waived off,” he added.