“Even now, Chief Minister did not want my resignation. He told me this is a political situation, I am handling it. Why are you coming forward?,’’ said former advocate general Shreehari Aney in a candid interview to HT, hours after he gave in his resignation from the post to the governor.
Aney’s appointment had become a political hot potato just a month later, with BJP’s ally Sena staunchly opposed to independent Vidarbha or any division of the state. It became clear on Monday that he would have to go after his remarks on supporting separate statehood for Marathwada created an uproar in the assembly but the 65-year senior counsel said he was ready one month into the job to give it up.
You have said that one of the reasons for resigning from the post is conflict of interest, didn’t you consider this when you took up the job as the advocate general?
Conflict of interest is one of the reasons that I was reluctant to take up the job for nearly 5 months after I had been first approached. I felt that my separate Vidarbha statehood ideology could be at variance with the task assigned to me. Chief Minister however was keen on me taking up this assignment. Less than 2 per cent of the cases are over inter regional conflicts and I decided that in such cases, I would excuse myself. What we didn’t expect is that I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut. That, I should keep quiet on something I strongly feel especially about Vidarbha was not possible. That became a problem.
When did you first realize that this is a job you may not be able to keep for long ?
To me it was pretty clear by winter session of the state legislature. My book on Vidarbha was published then and the winter session got washed away on my stance. It was very difficult to tell myself that you need to restrain yourself from saying what you believe in. This led to a situation where I was perpetually saying this is my personal opinion and not the government’s. There is a point till which to when you can do this. It became clearer when I was arguing matters relating to release of waters to Marathwada, farmers suicides, pointing out that dams in Auranagabad had been built to siphon of money more than store water. It became a matter of embarrassment when I argued in favour of women entering Haji Ali Dargah to pray. Because all these are sensitive issues and governments are reluctant to take a stance on them. But, if I am asked by court why farmers are still committing suicide then how can I not say that government is not doing enough? To this government’s credit no pressure was exerted on me.
Did you resign because your position was discomfiting the government or because you were asked to step down.
No one asked me to resign. Not the governor or the Chief Minister. I could see that my position is troublesome for the CM but that’s not the reason I resigned. I resigned over Vidarbha and my ideological stance on it. I can embarrass a hundred Chief Ministers for the cause of Vidarbha not just this one.
Even now, CM did not want my resignation, he told me this is a political situation and I am dealing with it. He asked me, why do you have to come forward with this ? My reply to him was fairly simple. I told him, we have seen this happening once, the house got stalled for two weeks earlier, it happened again now and this is a budget session. My whole attempt is to speak for the downtrodden sections of society, for backward regions, they should get the benefit. If budget doesn’t get passed, they are affected. At the end of the day, I speak for Vidarbha. If a government falls, what have I achieved ? It is then better to accept that I am not in a position to do justice to both, what I believe in and the job that I am trying to do.
At the end of the day resignation is for neglect of Vidarbha. This allegation not against the present government but against all governments and all of them sit in the assembly together.
Read more: Sena trains guns on Fadnavis over Aney
It seems then the trigger for the resignation was Marathwada and the allegation made against you is that you are a traitor, who wants to break up the state.
I support the state of Marathwada as in principle I support all smaller states. However, if one really goes through my remarks on Sunday, I was saying that this demand for separate Marathwada is premature today. Vidarbha movement has a history, a whole philosophy and an economic base to it that is absent in Marathwada. But, no one one really wanted to hear my statement. The real reason for uproar was Vidarbha. How am I traitor to the country ? The constitution enables us to carve out states. My advice to the Shiv Sena would be to consult a good lawyer.
One of the theories is that your position on Marathwada can benefit BJP and is in line with grand design of the RSS. M G Vaidya has spoken in favour of splitting Maharashtra in four parts.
I have not read Mr Vaidya, he is a very seasoned journalist and also in many ways the spokesperson of BJP. You can read his statement in that light. My statement need not be seen in any other light. It can help BJP or any other party. The Congress is free to say I am helping the BJP. I don’t give a damn about it. What I know is that this detracts from valid work in the legislature and government. It’s one of the reasons I decided to resign. I think Parliaments and state legislatures should function. At 65, I have no benefit from this post of AG, I don’t need any power. I have said several times, I will not contest elections. The monthly salary of AG is less than my half a day’s hearing fees at the Bombay High Court. The post is important and I admit that the post gets maligned a bit because I cannot keep my mouth shut. But, I see the post as being adjunct of my need to advocate public’s cause, I am unable to see the post as being a government lawyer.