Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar while supporting the formation of Telangana state has announced his party would not oppose statehood for Vidarbha but respect the sentiments of its residents.
Pawar chose to rake up the issue in a bid to lure voters from Vidarbha to consolidate his part's position in the run up to the parliamentary and Maharashtra assembly elections slated for 2014.
Currently, Of the 62 assembly seats in Vidarbha, NCP won 5 in 2009 elections. Union minister Praful Patel is the lone NCP member from the region elected to Lok Sabha. He won the seat during last general elections.
At the same time, NCP chief has tried to rub salt on the wounds of Congress which is unable to take a final call in the regard in the wake of lack of efforts to mobilize people in Vidarbha and also achieve political consensus. Similarly, he has attempted to further widen differences BJP and Shiv Sena on this issue.
BJP, which has been in favour of a separate Vidarbha, has so far miserably failed to galvanize necessary support and also bring its over two decade old electoral ally Shiv Sena on board. Shiv Sena is opposed to statehood for Vidarbha while Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has yet to open its cards on the issue.
Pawar’s timing is crucial when Vidarbha has been in the news for coalgate, multi-crore irrigation scam and farmers' suicide. More recently, BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari, who hails from Nagpur, shot into limelight for alleged irregularities relating to Purti Group of Industries founded by him.
Besides, a section of Congress including party general secretary and former minister Vilas Muttemwar have been quite consistent in opposing development of power projects with total generation capacity of 68,000 MW in the coal rich Vidarbha region and not in the rest of Maharashtra.
Muttemwar told Business Standard, “We have faith and confidence in the Congress leadership. We are quite hopeful that the party will take a proper decision in the larger interest of Vidarbha.”
However, state party spokeman Ratnakar Mahajan said Pawar’s statement has been quite consistent with his stand since his days in the Congress party. “So there is no need to further read into Pawar’s statement,” he noted.
NCP state spokesman Nawab Malik said his party has been in favour of smaller states.
BJP legislator from Nagpur Devendra Phadnavis reiterated that his party has 100% commitment for statehood for Vidrbha. “Ironically, Congress and NCP have been opportunistics on the issue. Let Pawar extends tacit support for Vidarbha state alike Telangana, I will be the first to garland him. Our party will support him.”
Sena’s group leader in the state assembly Subhash Desai however, declared that his party favours united Maharashtra and would continue to strongly oppose statehood for Vidarbha.