As Prime Minister Narendra Modi fervently decried the Congress for its alleged endorsement of terrorism, discussed the issue of Muslims claiming OBC quota reservations and rallied support around the topics of vote jihad, the Ram Mandir, and the revocation of Article 370 at a rally in Ambajogai, Beed district, on Tuesday, a starkly different struggle unfolded just kilometres away in the parched soils of Lokhandi Sawargaon village. In the unforgiving heat of a 40-degree Celsius blaze, 77-year-old Dharmraj Bansode and his brothers waged a desperate battle against the earth itself.

Born in the shadow of India’s independence in 1947, Dharmraj has known nothing but the relentless grip of drought, the sting of poverty, and the ghost of unemployment haunting the district.

“We are really struggling badly,” he declares, his voice as dry as the cracked land underfoot. Despite their many borewells now lying barren, the Bansodes continue to dig with machines, in a defiant quest to unearth a well. He laments that every election has brought a deluge of promises, yet the arid fate of Beed remains unaltered, trapped in an endless drought of unfulfilled hopes.

PM’s Promises

In a fleeting span of roughly 35 minutes, PM Modi’s speech briefly danced over topics like farmers, drought, irrigation, roads, and crop insurance, dedicating a mere four minutes to these critical issues. The hearts and minds of Beed’s voters were left yearning for more, their hopes hanging on his every word, desperately seeking deeper commitment and more expansive solutions.

Modi in his speech proclaimed that under the BJP’s leadership for the past decade, the region has surged towards progress and development. “Perhaps I have been left behind on this path, but I am sure you will find many like me,” said P Uttam, a farmer, echoing the sentiments of many in the region.

Stark Reality

About 80.1 per cent of the district’s population lives in rural areas. A staggering 72 per cent of its working population is bound to the soil as cultivators or farm labourers. Each year, as if driven by a relentless force, approximately five to six lakh souls from Beed are compelled to migrate to the sugarcane fields of western Maharashtra and beyond. For six gruelling months, they toil under harsh, almost inhuman conditions — a bitter testament to the dearth of viable livelihood options within their own district.

“Beed requires an economy that benefits everyone. The poor are suffering and the agrarian crisis here has only intensified the hardships farmers face,” says Aniket Lohiya from the Manavlok organisation, which serves underprivileged communities in Beed. He asserted, “Politicians must make resolute efforts to tackle the water crisis. We need to attract industries and provide them with the necessary facilities.”

Clutches of Fate

In the shadow of a crumbled cooperative cotton mill in Hol village, young Vishal Ghuge works as a guard to protect the desolate land. The mill’s rusted signboard and the stark notices from banks demanding debt repayment whisper tales of decay. “My father once worked here before it shut down,” Vishal reveals. “There are no jobs left, and we only farm during the monsoon, which isn’t enough to live on.” As he nears the completion of his degree, Vishal dreams of fleeing to Pune or Mumbai, driven not just by the hunt for employment but also for a life partner. “No girl wants to marry a boy from here,” he laments.

Pankaja Munde of the BJP is contesting against Bajrang Sonawane of the NCP (SP) in the Beed Lok Sabha constituency. But Vishal and numerous others stand out for their disinterest in the polls. They yearn to escape the clutches of fate, seeking to flee the district and its inevitable ties.