Mumbai: The war of words between ruling BJP and opposition Shiv Sena escalated on Tuesday with Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse raking up Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's "non-farming" background and the latter hitting back with an oblique reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on "empty promises" made in run-up to Assembly elections.
"I don't need lessons from anyone. Those who don't know whether the groundnut grows underground or above the ground should not teach me. Those who have not seen a farm are advising me. I am a farmer myself," said Khadse, whose comments on farmers had invited Thackeray's ire yesterday.
His remarks drew a sharp rebuke from the Sena chief who said the BJP leader is emulating NCP chief Sharad Pawar by commenting on the non-agriculture background of the Mumbai- based Thackeray family.
"When Khadse spoke yesterday, I had said he was speaking like (former Deputy Chief Minister) Ajit Pawar (who hit headlines for crude statement against farmers). But today he has spoken the way Sharad Pawar did when he was in power. He (Pawar) had made similar allegations against us.
"I remember (the late) Balasaheb's reply to him (Pawar) very clearly, but I don't want to repeat it now. If the need arises, I will give him the answer Balasaheb had given," Uddhav said in Aurangabad.
Khadse has been drawing flak from his party's estranged ally since his statement over non-payment of power bills by farmers.
"My remarks were projected out of context. What I said was in the interest of the farmers," Khadse told reporters here today.
Khadse had yesterday said if farmers could pay their mobile bills, why can't they also clear their power dues.
"If they have money to pay their mobile bills, then why don't they have money to pay their electricity bills? They should make it a habit to pay off bills and loans," the senior BJP leader had said in Akola in Vidarbha, where thousands of debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide.
Addressing a farmers' rally in Jalna today, Uddhav took potshots at Modi without naming him, saying "a dry Marathwada" was left behind after "the wave" had passed.
"Where have the big political leaders who roamed from village to village addressing poll rallies disappeared now? The only thing that remains after the wave is over is a dry Marathwada region (which is facing water scarcity). They have forgotten the woes of the people of this region," Uddhav said.
Modi had campaigned extensively in Maharashtra for the October Assembly polls.
"Two months ago it seemed that a wave had engulfed
this region. Big politicians provided solace by making tall promises. Where is the wave now? These politicians will only be seen in photos now," Uddhav said.
The Sena chief also said he will request the Governor to accompany all 63 MLAs of his party on a tour of the region, so that he can direct the government to take urgent steps for the affected farmers.
"We will request the Governor to accompany us to Marathwada region. He should himself see the condition of this region and direct the government to declare it drought-hit immediately. The government can then take measures accordingly to help farmers in distress," Uddhav added.