After being at the receiving end of some harsh criticism over his remarks that Maharashtra should be trifurcated, senior lawyer Shreehari Aney resigned as the state’s Advocate General on Tuesday morning. His statements, however, have set off a political controversy, which saw a tussle between ruling allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena. Other political parties accused the BJP of hatching a conspiracy to divide the state.
After causing a major embarrassment for the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government, Aney called on governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao on Tuesday morning and submitted his resignation. The governor had not accepted it until late in the evening, but the state government made it clear in the Assembly that if necessary, the cabinet will recommend the governor accept Aney’s resignation. Speaking at a function in Jalna on Sunday, Aney — a strong advocate of a separate Vidarbha state — had said Marathwada had faced injustice more than Vidarbha and hence there is a case for a separate Marathwada state along with a separate Vidarbha state. It evoked strong reactions from the Shiv Sena and Opposition parties, who demanded the immediate removal of Aney. Fadnavis, too, had expressed unhappiness over Aney’s statement, after which it became clear Aney would have to step down. He resigned from the post, but said he could not continue as AG while maintaining his ideological stand. He also insisted that neither Fadnavis nor Rao had asked him to resign from the post.
Though Aney put in his papers, the controversy has turned into a bitter political tussle with some BJP-RSS leaders speaking in favour of a division and the Sena reacting in a violent way. Opposition parties Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, too, targeted the BJP over the issue.
Late on Tuesday, Sena workers disrupted a function organised at Nashik where the chief guest was BJP leader and chairperson of the state women’s commission Vijaya Rahatkar. Sena workers shouted slogans against Rahatkar, who had earlier in the day said the demand for a separate Marathwada state should be considered as the region was facing discrimination. Following this, angry BJP workers blocked roads in Nashik.
Earlier in the day, Sena mouthpiece Saamna launched a verbal attack on Fadnavis saying he has no right to continue as chief minister if he tolerates such an insult to the state. Having tasted blood with Aney’s resignation, the Sena on Tuesday demanded the outgoing AG be booked for sedition. It also submitted a notice for a breach of privilege motion against Aney in the state Assembly.
Raj alleged Aney’s remarks were part of a conspiracy hatched by the RSS and the BJP to divide the state. “The Sangh Parivar has always been the advocate of smaller states and hence Aney, who is from Nagpur and close to the RSS, is also echoing their views. It was part of the old RSS strategy to test the water and gauge the response of the people,” Raj said. “However, we are firm on a united Maharashtra and we will bash up anyone if they talk of division,” he said.
Aney’s resignation has also embarrassed the government — in just 17 months of being in power, two AGs have resigned after serving a tenure of seven and four months respectively. Sunil Manohar, who resigned for personal reasons in June 2015, also hails from Nagpur. Aney was appointed on November 15 last year. The state government is expected to announce Aney’s successor soon.
Earlier in the day, Fadnavis, who has served as Aney’s junior during his short stint as lawyer in Nagpur, told the state Assembly that the resignation has been submitted by the latter to the governor and due process would be followed thereafter. “The government has already clarified its stand on Monday — we do not approve of the statement by Aney,” he said.
When the Opposition raised doubts over the acceptance of his resignation, the chief minister said the government would advise the governor to accept it. “The honourable governor will take the appropriate decision on the resignation as he is the appointing authority of the AG. The state government is of the opinion that the resignation should be accepted. If need be, the council of ministers of the state will recommend acceptance of his resignation,” he said.
Though Fadnavis sought to distance his government from Aney’s remarks, his party colleagues Rahatkar and Latur MP Sunil Gaikwad supported his demand for a separate Marathwada state. Senior RSS functionary MG Vaidya, too, said in Nagpur that Maharashtra could be divided into four states if the criterion of a three-crore population for each state was considered.
These remarks would probably be used by Opposition parties as ammunition against the BJP.
NCP leader Jayant Patil asked the government to clarify its stand on statehood for Vidarbha.