Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Vasant Sathe on Thursday asked the party high command to fulfil its promise on carving out a separate state of Vidarbha as it was “high time” to act on the issue.
“When myself and my senior colleague former Union Energy Minister N. K. P. Salve resorted to fast-unto-death pressing for statehood to Vidarbha in Nagpur on December 12, 2003, the then Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde messaged us that we have been invited by the Congress high command,” Mr. Sathe told PTI in an interview from Delhi.
“Both of us, along with Nagpur Congress MP Vila Muttemwar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior leader Pranab Mukherjee in January 2004 where we were assured separate Vidarbha,” Mr. Sathe recalled.
He said he was specifically assured that whenever the issue of separate Telengana crops up and a decision is taken, Vidarbha statehood would be also be considered alongside.
“Our impression was that Congress leadership was aware of the aspirations of people of Vidarbha and it is high time to act on the issue. Vidarbha Congress leaders are not against people of Telangana and have nothing to do with it,” he said.
On incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s opposition to separate Vidarbha, Mr. Sathe said, “the moment Congress indicates its positive stance on Vidarbha, Chavan will follow what central leaders say.”
Mr. Sathe, who represented Akola and Wardha seats in Lok Sabha earlier, said major political parties like BJP, NCP, Shetkari Sanghatana, Swantantra Bharat Paksha, all factions of Republican Party and Bharip Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi party are in favour of separate Vidarbha, barring Shiv Sena.
“Some people (Sena) are opposing Vidarbha. Logically a major part of State revenue comes from Mumbai and not from rest of Maharashtra and hence their Opposition has no value,” the former parliamentarian said.
Also, the Fazal Ali Commission, in 1955 had recommended creation of separate Vidarbha, he noted.
Mr. Sathe expressed his eagerness to join an all-party delegation of the recently formed Vidarbha Rajya Sangram Samiti which is planning to visit Delhi and meet top central leaders including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others.
Vidarbha’s revenue contribution is huge due to electricity produced by thermal power stations, coal and other minerals. It would be an economically viable state as it was selling power worth Rs. 5,000 crores, he added.