The troubled relations between the ruling allies in Maharashtra saw another flashpoint on Monday when Shiv Sena members disrupted the state legislature’s proceedings protesting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s support for statehood to Vidarbha.
Sena members, donning saffron Gandhi caps with ‘Akhand Maharashtra’ written on them, stormed the well of both houses, shouting slogans in support of the state remaining united. The day’s proceedings were a washout.
The sight of Sena legislators disrupting proceedings against a government they are a part of had been witnessed once before, when the then state advocate general Shrihari Aney backed statehood for Vidarbha and called for a referendum. He had to quit on the issue. Monday’s protests came after the BJP’s Nana Patole moved a private member’s bill in Parliament on Friday demanding statehood for Vidarbha. And on Sunday, the BJP state chief Raosaheb Danve said the party would decide on the division of the state at an appropriate time.
The opposition parties, however, alleged Monday’s protests were orchestrated to ensure there was no debate on the allegations of corruption against ministers.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, leader of the opposition in the assembly, said, “You [the BJP and the Sena] have clearly had a ‘setting’ to ensure that the house doesn’t run and that we don’t ask you tough questions.”
Following two adjournments, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis finally said there was neither an immediate proposal to carve out Vidarbha, nor was it under the State’s consideration currently.
For the Sena, Patole’s bill and Danve’s statements suggested that the BJP would continue to push its oft-stated agenda to carve out Vidarbha from Maharashtra.
“There is a larger trend we’ve seen on this issue -- while the government stays mum, it has other players which keep demanding statehood for Vidarbha. First, it was Shrihari Aney and now it’s Patole along with Danve,” said Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe.
Speaking on the issue, Fadnavis tacitly acknowledged the demand for statehood by pointing out that the states reorganisation committee of 1956 had recommended it. “However, it is not in the state government’s purview and currently the issue is not even under consideration. There is no such proposal. The decision lies with the Central government.”
Fadnavis also accused the Congress-NCP of creating divisions between the two ruling parties. “The Sena and the BJP’s stands on the issue have always been clear. The Congress and the NCP need to come out clean on the issue and not indulge in double-speak.”
The events over the past few days have managed to, once again, derail the Sena-BJP relationship. The two have most recently been at loggerheads over the control of two cash-rich temple trusts, Shirdi’s Sai Baba Sansthan and Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Trust, a tussle that has not yet ended.