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Why a separate state for Vidarbha will not materialise

So, much as some disenchanted people might wish it, Maharashtra will not be breaking up any time soon.

columns Updated: Mar 29, 2016 22:02 IST
Vidarbha,Marathwada,Shreehari Aney
Former Maharashtra Advocate General Shreehari Aney felicitated by activists of Separate Vidarbha during a demonstration in Nagpur, March 25, 2016(Sunny Shende)

Former Maharashtra advocate general Shreehari Aney’s Facebook post on the reasons for his resignation is a startling piece of writing that showcases a fine legal mind and his commitment to the people of Maharashtra — even at the cost of opposing the government that appointed him.

Yet over the past several months he has angered the people of Maharashtra by advocating not just a separate Vidarbha but also a separate Marathwada, a thing the people of the region do not want and cannot afford.

Aney, as the grandson of former Congress MP Bapusaheb Aney, who was in the forefront of the separate Vidarbha movement, obviously has been unable to let go of a childhood dream shown to him by his grandfather. He has published a memoir titled `Vidarbha Gatha’, an account of the struggle for Vidarbha. But running through the entire treatise is a sense that anything that goes wrong with any leader or party in Maharashtra is because they did not concede statehood to Vidarbha.

Read | Is Aney showing a mirror to Maharashtra?

For example, Aney writes about meeting Bal Thackeray with a delegation when the Shiv Sena–BJP government was first in power during 1995-99. Thackeray promised to consider the demand for the development of Vidarbha (the Sena supremo would never agree to bifurcation) and yet his government ignored the region. According to Aney, the reason why the Shiv Sena and BJP were voted out and kept out of power in Maharashtra for 15 years is because they went back on their promises on Vidarbha. That analysis does not factor in other reasons for successive defeats and the fact that the Shiv Sena would have been finished as a political party if it had agreed to a separation.

The Shiv Sena has always been consistent on its stand about a unified Maharashtra and it is the sole reason why Aney had to put in his papers as the state’s advocate general. It is surprising that he could not see it coming when he made a case for a separate Marathwada. But his commitment to a separate Vidarbha is such that, I believe, he thought if Marathwada begins to demand statehood, a separate Vidarbha would become inevitable.

But I don’t think it quite works in that fashion. Aney clings to the demand for a separate Vidarbha because his family’s entire ethos is rooted in that. However, generations moved on since and although Aney might say that every politician who betrays Vidarbha comes to nought, it is actually the other way round — the demand arises only when these politicians are sidelined by their parties; in government they are quite content to be part of Maharashtra.

Read | ‘We will lobby with smaller parties for a separate Vidarbha’

But it is not just about political parties. The entrepreneurial youth would rather belong to a Maharashtra with high per capita income and human development index than to just Vidarbha that might go below neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. “If we compare the neighbouring districts of Seoni, Balaghat and Betul in Madhya Pradesh of which Vidarbha was part before reorganisation, see where they are and where we are — and we are where we are entirely because we have benefitted from Maharashtra,” says Rahul Kale who runs a cosmetic business in Nagpur.

Ditto for the other regions of the state, including Marathwada — it is the attachment to Bombay as the commercial capital of India which presents opportunities and hope to people of these regions and they are in no mood to let go.

So, much as some disenchanted people might wish it, Maharashtra will not be breaking up any time soon


First Published: Mar 29, 2016 22:01 IST