The demand by BJP for statehood for the Vidarbha region drew a sharp reaction from its ally Shiv Sena which said it was necessary for the health of the partnership that such contentious issues were kept aside.
“It is in the interest of the Mahayuti (the five-party opposition alliance in Maharashtra) to keep aside issues like separate Vidarbha in order to enable governance after the elections,” Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said in a statement.
“Sena is committed to a united Maharashtra and will never allow it to be bifurcated at any cost,” Raut said.
“BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis has announced that a separate Vidarbha state (would be created) after our government comes to power.
“(But) before the Mahayuti government comes to power in the state, there needs to be a common minimum programme,” he added.
“Issues like Article 370, Ram Mandir and common civil code were kept aside to enable the NDA regime to govern. Similarly, it is in the interest of the Mahayuti to keep the Vidarbha issue aside,” Raut said.
The Sena leader’s statement comes in the wake of a renewed demand for statehood for Vidarbha following the passage of the Telangana bill in Parliament.
RPI President Ramdas Athawale, whose party, too, is part of the Mahayuti, has meanwhile said they will launch an agitation in Vidarbha on February 24 to demand separate statehood for the region.
“The Centre should have created a separate Vidarbha while taking the decision on Telangana,” Athawale said.
With the state BJP leadership having reiterated its demand for a separate Vidarbha state, Fadnavis said, “We had already passed the resolution in favour of smaller states, including a separate state of Vidarbha.”
Congress leaders from Vidarbha have also backed the demand.
“The party will definitely support a separate Vidarbha state,” MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said.
However, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has opposed the demand.