In the agriculturally-rich Hanumangarh district of northern Rajasthan, the seepage of water from the Indira Gandhi Canal into about 30 villages of Pilibanga and Rawatsar blocks is set to decide the depth of support to different political parties in the Assembly election. Two generations of farmers, facing the problem for 40 years, have felt betrayed by politicians here.Turned into wastelandOver 4,370 hectares of fertile land in the region has become wasteland with the canal waters flooding the agricultural land as well as houses. The water seeps into the fields, but is unable to go deep because of the underground gypsum layer. As a result, the salted water floods and destroys the land.Neither any compensation nor the assistance for rejuvenation of land has been given to the farmers, leading to resentment in the agricultural community. Farmers have now taken a pledge to support only that party which helps them raise their living standards. Many farmers, who were once rich, have been driven to penury with their land becoming infertile.Dhanna Ram Godara, bio-farming head of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh in the district, who has led an agitation on the issue for more than a year, told The Hindu that the drainage of water through pipelines had turned out to be impractical. “Some farmers were relocated and allotted land elsewhere in 1992. The problem persists because of insensitivity of the successive governments. It has affected 26,000 families,” he said.After signing an agreement with the agitating farmers in October 2017, the BJP government pursued the matter with the Centre. A comprehensive plan with the Central allocation for a project to remove water from the fields was still awaited, Jakhdawali-based activist Bhajan Lal pointed out. However, lining of the Indira Gandhi Canal’s distributaries by adding an impermeable layer at the edges has been taken up at some places.State Water Resources Minister Ram Pratap, who was instrumental in making Hanumangarh a district in 1994, is contesting the election as a BJP candidate again from the constituency. As the farmers in the seepage-affected areas expect him to do something to help them out, he is facing anti-incumbency in his constituency.Elsewhere in the district, elections to the irrigation water utilisers’ associations — under the Bhakra irrigation system’s second division — have been delayed because of the model code of conduct being enforced for the Assembly polls. At present, the Irrigation Department’s officials are running the 49 canal distributaries in the system, supplying water to 277 villages in Ghaggar, Khara and Pilibanga blocks.Right to manage Farmers have been given the right to manage the affairs of canals under the Rajasthan Farmers’ Participation in Management of Irrigation Systems Act, 2000. The election of chairpersons of water utilisation associations enables them to control the works such as delineation of areas, fixing the turn of fields to get irrigation waters, sanctioning the construction of new heads and maintenance and cleanliness of the distributaries.With the ruling BJP having represented all the five Assembly constituencies in the district in 2013, the voters in the city, situated near Ghaggar river, as well as in the rural areas are still waiting for resolution of the issues of lack of agro-based industries, poor infrastructure for civic amenities and closure of the local spinning mill.CPI(M) candidate from Bhadra Balwan Singh Poonia, who had lost to the BJP’s Sanjeev Kumar in the 2013 election, expects to turn the tide this time and get farmers’ support while campaigning for more water for irrigation and better minimum support prices for agricultural produce.Interestingly, the district administration here has launched an intensive campaign to ensure a good turnout of voters during the December 7 polling. The initiatives for releasing posters of a “Votu” mascot and playing of jingles in the local dialect have attracted the people. A mobile app to enable the people to take a pledge to cast their votes, after which they get a signed certificate, had especially generated a “sense of participation” among the electorate, said Collector Dinesh Chandra Jain.