Vidarbha going TS way on statehood?
Going by the train of events in the recent past and the shocking, disruptive action of the activists of Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Tuesday to foil a press conference being addressed by the Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti (VRAS) in Mumbai, it appears that the day is not far when the regional sentiments would fly thick and fast towards achievement of statehood a la Telangana.
At a public gathering in Nagpur, Shrihari Aney recently said supporters of statehood for Vidarbha would approach Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and TS Chief Minister KCR to garner support for the cause
The VRAS leaders, fighting for creation of separate Vidarbha State, were to address the media at Mumbai Press Club. Just when the VRAS leaders assembled for the press meet at 3 pm with Vidarbha leader Srinivas Khandewale holding the mike, the MNS activists stormed the venue and started creating ruckus. They raised slogans of ‘Akhand Maharashtra’ and were seen having heated exchange with Vidarbha protagonists.
The rampaging MNS activists marched towards the stage and threw a table out. They stopped short of attacking the VRAS leaders, but their menacing postures betrayed their nasty intent. “The separate Vidarbha words will not be allowed to be uttered on Mumbai soil,” was the protest line of the activists. The chaos for a short while disrupted the press conference. But after the activists left the venue, the Vidarbha leaders continued with their press meet and shared their sentiments on the region.
Dhananjay Dharmik said that he, along with Wamanrao Chatap, Srinivas Khandewale and Nanduparate, were seated on the dais. “We all had reached there at the invitation of Mumbai Press Club. The moment we started airing our viewpoints, the MNS activists barged into the venue and indulged in uproar. The MNS activists put up their side in their own “disgraceful” manner and we also put up our side. Demand for Vidarbha state is not of a few persons, but of over one and half crore people who are cherishing it.
Vidarbha people are fighting for justice which has been eluding them for years and the people of the region also deserve the right for development. Such goon-like protest will not gag our voice for a separate Vidarbha,” Dharmik declared. Yet another prominent Vidarbha protagonist who is facing the music for expression of frank views is former Maharashtra advocate-general Shrihari Aney. Aney, who handed in his resignation on March 22 following criticism for supporting statehood for Marathwada, said later that there should be a referendum on the demand for a separate state of Vidarbha.
Even if the entire Maharashtra Legislative Assembly opposed the demand, the Parliament in Delhi could create a separate state of Vidarbha, he said, adding that they would “drop the issue forever” if less than 51% of voters supported the demand. At a public gathering in Nagpur, Aney said supporters of statehood for Vidarbha would approach Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and TS Chief Minister KCR to garner favour for the cause.
A national daily reported that, with support from these parties and others, they would create a “pressure lobby” to push for statehood for Vidarbha. Aney also claimed that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who was the public works department minister of Maharashtra, and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis favoured a separate state of Vidarbha, as well. Before Aney resigned as advocate-general, opposition Congress and NCP, besides leaders from the ruling Shiv Sena, had demanded that Aney be divested of the constitutional post.
Otherwise, they threatened, proceedings of both Houses of the state legislature would be blocked during the Budget Session. However, Aney made it clear that he was not asked by the Chief Minister or the Governor to resign. Aney cited two reasons — “conflict of duty and institutional stability”. Aney said he decided to step down as he reckoned Budget Session failure could prove detrimental to the government. He meticulously argued his case to expose
the “conflict”. Aney said, “The A-G is the first lawyer of the people of State. The advocate general is not a government pleader. I considered it my constitutional duty to place the interests of the people above the interests of the governmental machinery.” He asserted that his commitment to public cause was evident in the manner in which he argued the cases pertaining to lack of development of Vidarbha, the insistence on the right of people of Marathwada to drinking water, and the need for stronger governmental measures to tackle the issue of farmer suicides and the State’s agrarian crisis.
Regarding institutional stability, he argued, “In spite of the fact that my stand on Vidarbha’s statehood is well-known, it became the reason for disruption of the State’s legislature for two weeks in the winter session.” Aney said he first spoke in support of statehood for Marathwada over a month ago at a public function at Ahmednagar, and reiterated it three days ago at an event in Jalna. “I have written more elaborately about the Jalna speech in a separate post onFacebook,” he added.
Expressing his disappointment over the disruptions in the legislature business, Aney said, “It would perhaps have been better if the legislators had deliberated over the problems that occasion the demand for statehood and made some attempt to solve them. Shooting the messenger does not solve the problem.” Acknowledging that as a lawyer he was aware the Budget Session failure could lead to downfall of the government, he said he could see a “clear pattern in the legislature disruption”.
Aney said, “Since I shall not stop from voicing my demand for Vidarbha’s statehood, and the legislators will not stop from using it as a ready excuse to stall the working of the legislature, one of us has to step back.” Aney had been handpicked by Fadnavis for the coveted post last year. “I believe Advocate General’s prime function is to protect the interests of the people, and that the Legislature must function if the interest of the people is to be protected.
My final act as Advocate General, which would be most in the interests of the people of the State, was to resign from the post,” the letter summed up. Reacting to the development, Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “AG is a constitutional post and it was not possible for us to compromise on the remark made on dividing Maharashtra.”