The creation of Telangana state may have given impetus to the long-standing demand for carving out a separate state of Vidarbha from Maharashtra, but there are indications the ruling Congress is unlikely to bite the bullet in a pre-election year, even though its local leadership, as well as ally the NCP, supports the cause.
Congress derives significant strength from this region, with its local leaders pushing for the demand — former MP Vilas Muttemwar has written to party president Sonia Gandhi, and ministers like Nitin Raut have openly supported Vidarbha statehood — but the party’s stand is deliberately cautious.
“The stance of the Maharashtra unit on Vidarbha cannot be separate from that of the Centre. Whatever sentiments are being expressed by Congress leaders are personal views, and not that of the party,” said state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre.
The main reason for this guarded approach is that it is not politically expeditious for the party to have separate state. “If the Congress has to retain power in the state, they need Vidarbha in it. If Vidarbha is separated, the NCP can rule the roost and the Sena can become more powerful. In a pre-election year, it will whip up sentiments against the Congress across the state,” said an NCP minister.
The NCP reiterated support for separate statehood on Wednesday. "NCP fully supports Vidarbha if people are keen to have it....If people want, we will support it," said party vice president and Union minister Praful Patel.
The BJP, too, is pro-Vidarbha, with state party president Devendra Fadnavis saying the demand is pending for 40 years.
Political observers, however, say the movement has died a natural death, with most of its leaders losing credibility and the region’s youth not too moved by the issue. An indication of this is Sena’s performance — for a party that resists the movement, it has got three MPs and eight MLAs elected from here.