Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo, Sharad Pawar has announced his party will not oppose statehood for Vidarbha.
"We will not come in the way of a decision on Vidarbha," Pawar had said while speaking to reporters in the national capital on Thursday (January 31).
NCP state party spokesman Nawab Malik later reiterated Pawar’s stand, stating that his party has always been in favour of smaller states.
Pawar’s statement is being seen as a bid to lure voters from Vidarbha to the NCP in the run up to the parliamentary and Maharashtra assembly elections slated for 2014.
Of the 62 assembly seats in Vidarbha, NCP had won 5 in the elections held in 2009 while union minister Praful Patel is the lone member elected to the Lok Sabha during the last general elections.
Pawar’s statement comes at a time when Vidarbha has been in the news for Coalgate, the multi-crore Maharashtra irrigation scam and suicides by farmers. More recently, BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari, who hails from Vidarbha’s biggest city, Nagpur, shot into the limelight for alleged irregularities relating to his Purti Group of Industries.
Besides, a section of the Congress party, including party general secretary and former minister Vilas Muttemwar, have been quite consistent in opposing the development of power projects with a total generation capacity of 68,000 MW in coal-rich Vidarbha 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 interests of Vidarbha.”
However, state party spokesperson 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 read any further into Pawar’s statement,” he noted.
The BJP, which has been in favour of a separate Vidarbha state, has so far miserably failed to galvanise necessary support and also bring its over two decade-old electoral ally, the Shiv Sena on board. The Sena is opposed to statehood for Vidarbha while its offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has yet to open its cards in this regard.
BJP legislator from Nagpur, Devendra Phadnis reiterated that his party “was committed a100 per cent to statehood for Vidrbha. “Ironically, the Congress and the NCP have been opportunists on this issue. Let Pawar extend tacit support to Vidarbha just like Telangana. I will be the first to garland him. Our party will support him.”
The Shiv Sena’s group leader in the state assembly, Subhash Desai however declared that his party favours a united Maharashtra and would continue to strongly oppose statehood for Vidarbha.