These polls carry a special significance for the region as a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fighting unfettered for the first time, is promising statehood, while all the other four parties are firmly opposing it. These elections, then, may deliver a judgement on just which way the public sentiment on this issue is.
Incidentally, the BJP, traditionally a votary of a separate Vidarbha, is hoping that it is exactly this stand that will take it through and ensure it wins big in the region, which has 62 crucial seats to offer.
“The tough stand against statehood for Vidarbha would certainly create a big hurdle for Sena and would benefit BJP,” says Anil Kilor, a senior lawyer and president of Janmanch, which has been campaigning for a separate Vidarbha.
“We are getting an overwhelming response in every district and our motto is to defeat all those opposing a separate state (read Sena and MNS),” Kilor, adding that all the lawyers’ associations, NGOs, business and trading community and doctors associations in the region have extended their support for the cause.
Many in the BJP hope that the issue of separation may ensure that all the other parties, which have been vocal about a united Maharashtra, bite the electoral dust.
The recent Lok Sabha polls saw the BJP-Sena sweep the region, bagging all the 10 seats. The BJP, now fighting solo, hopes to combine its pro-Vidarbha statehood stand along with the popular appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP’s rise in the region, spearheaded by Union minister Nitin Gadkari, former state chief Sudhir Mungantiwar and current state chief Devendra Fadnavis, has corresponded with Congress’ declining appeal in the region.
Though the Congress once enjoyed the support of people here, it suffered a major setback in 2009 elections, when some its big names like former minister Satish Chaturvedi, another former minister Anees Ahmed, among others, were defeated.
While the Congress is struggling to maintain its tally of 22 seats, out of 62 in the region, the situation of NCP and Shiv Sena is equally bad. While BJP’s strong pro-Vidarbha stand may help it make major gains in the ensuing elections, the Sena’s strong anti-view may affect its prospects.
Both, Gadkari and Fadnavis assert that they are committed to separate Vidarbha state. If everything goes its way, the BJP can reach 40 out of 62 seats, nearly double of the current 19 seats, which it won in the 2009 Assembly elections.