BHOPAL: In the run up to the ensuing assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, one major issue that is going to put the ruling BJP under litmus test is the challenge related to water crisis in Bundelkhand region and how around 80 per cent of hand pumps reportedly are not working.
The opposition Congress has already upped the ante and senior party leader Ajay Singh has urged Union Minister Uma Bharti to seek expenditure details of the funds allocated by the central government under Bundelkhand package.
In an open letter to Ms Bharti recently, Mr Singh, also Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, said that the BJP government in the state failed to take any concrete step to mitigate water shortage in the region.
He also alleged that huge central funds were provided but that was not made use of effectively.
The Bundelkhand region covers six districts in Madhya Pradesh and seven in Uttar Pradesh and in both the states, locals allege they do face "administrative discrimination".
In districts like Tikamgarh - that falls under Madhya Pradesh - locals from time to time have complained that in many villages either the hand pumps do not function or for a population of 300-400 households, there is only one hand pump.
"This BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan has failed on all fronts. The water crisis in Bundelkhand region is a testimony of that failure report card. Hence, water management issues and how BJP has failed is certainly a major election issue," state Congress spokesman Pankaj Chautvedi told UNI here.
He also said that from time to time, the Congress party has written to the central government on this but the grievances and demand for water fell on deaf ears of the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and both the governments - the state as well as the Centre.
"People in effect survive on trekking long distance to fetch drinking water and you may not realise this practice is also taking toll on people's health and their family life," the Congress leader said.
However, the BJP leaders and state government officials try to dismiss the allegations or try to make light of the episode.
"The water crisis is certainly a challenge in Bundelkhand region. But the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has been working hard to mitigate people's problems. The Congress party has developed an habit of hit and run - with no accountability. In fact, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has involved people and women to resolve the problem," said BJP leader Virender Sachdeva.
"Jal Sahelis have been selected from among the women villagers and this mechanism has showed positive results. Moreover, Jal-Jan Jodo Abhiyan too has been successful. The Congress allegations are actually motivated," said Mr Sachadeva, also associated BJP's governance cell.
However, the issue of water shortage in Bundelkhand region is bound to figure prominently at the polls, say other BJP leaders in the state.
In fact, last month a group of citizens from the region arrived Bhopal and met senior ministers and government officials complaining the villagers have to wait for long hours to get drinking water and meet their bathing and other needs.
"In many villages, people have to work hard and walk 2 kms. Often people have to use unclean water which, in turn also bring in skin infections and diseases like diarrhoea," says Congress spokesman Chaturvedi.
The BJP insiders admit there are issues those need to be addressed in Bundelkhand and other regions and sub-regions.
In fact, the saffron party's internal survey recently suggested that the around 60 MLAs from Bundelkhand, Mahakaushal, Baghelkhand and Malwa-Nimar are in the 'danger zone' of losing tickets due to unsatisfactory performance.