Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Tuesday committing to a united Maharashtra and his failure to mention the Vidarbha statehood issue have invited criticism from political rivals.
Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar on Wednesday demanded the immediate resignation of BJP leader Nitin Gadkari as a Lok Sabha member on the grounds that he did not object to Modi’s promise not to divide Maharashtra.
Muttemwar pointed out that during the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, Gadkari had made a written commitment to the cause of separate Vidarbha state should the BJP get an absolute majority. However, Muttemwar argued, Gadkari kept mum on the issue despite getting a platform to raise the subject in Modi’s presence at the election rally in Nagpur on Tuesday.
“It is sheer betrayal to the statehood cause and Gadkari has no right to continue as a Lok Sabha member from Nagpur,” Muttemwar said, adding that the Prime Minister’s silence on the issue showed that Gadkari had no say in the central government.
The Congress leader also sought the resignation of state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis for also failing to raise the statehood issue in Modi’s presence.
“Fadnavis is also playing the statehood plank in his election campaign in Vidarbha,” he alleged.
Muttemwar conceded that neither former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan nor the Congress-led UPA government had supported separate statehood for Vidarbha.
Former Maharashtra minister Satish Chaturvedi, however, said that the Congress may support the statehood cause in the future. “If the BJP government at the Centre passes a resolution on statehood for Vidarbha, the Congress will extend support,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s Vidarbha unit has claimed that Modi’s statement on a united Maharashtra had been distorted by the media.
“Modi had said that his government would not allow the separation of Mumbai from Maharashtra, but never said that he would not allow a separate statehood for Vidarbha,” said Girish Vyas, the BJP’s state spokesperson. “We are committed with the issue of separate Vidarbha and the BJP government at Centre would take a decision at an appropriate time in this regard.”