The renewed demand for a separate state of Vidarbha in the backdrop of the Centre’s decision to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh has brought to fore differences in the Opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance.
While state BJP leaders have rallied for fulfilment of the long-pending demand for a separate Vidarbha, Sena leaders have come out vehemently against splitting Maharashtra.
The ties between the saffron partners are already under strain due to what Sena leaders believe is BJP’s eagerness to bring the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) under the Opposition umbrella.
“We are opposed to a separate Vidarbha state.
Vidarbha’s development is possible even if the region remains a part of Maharashtra,” senior Sena leader Subhash Desai said.
Mr. Desai said his party would never support a creation of Vidarbha as a separate state.
“Our party supremo Bal Thackeray believes in ‘Sanyukta Maharashtra’ (United Maharashtra) and we will not allow the state to break into two parts,” he said.
“Those demanding statehood for Vidarbha should remember the 105 martyrs who laid down their lives for realising the dream of a Sanyukta Maharashtra (united Maharashtra),” he said.
However, the Centre’s decision on Telangana has led political leaders from Vidarbha to rejuvenate their demand.
BJP MLA Chandrashekhar Bawankule raised the issue in the Assembly on Thursday.
He was supported by the Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse, senior BJP leader, who said the demand for statehood to Vidarbha mirrors the aspirations of the region’s populace.
Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar has written to party President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding that the Centre should intervene in creation of a separate Vidarbha state.
BJP MLA from Nagpur, Devendra Fadnavis said his party had supported the Telangana struggle and would now fight for creation of Vidarbha. “The Maharashtra Government has neglected a development in the region and its natural resources are being exploited to the hilt,” he added.
Mr. Khadse said the BJP supported creation of smaller states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand. “The Centre should expedite the creation of Vidarbha,” he added.
Congress leaders have said there is no need for a separate Vidarbha.
MPCC President Manikrao Thakre said he wanted Vidarbha to be part of Maharashtra.
“As for development of the region, public representatives of Vidarbha should sit together and decide the blueprint,” he said.
Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has said Vidarbha’s development is possible if it remains a part of Maharashtra