The political leadership in Maharashtra advocating the demand for separate Vidarbha are reverting to the submissions made before the State Reorganisation Commission by Dr B R Ambedkar over half a century ago to justify bifurcation of Maharashtra. Whether it is Bharatiya Janata Party,Republican Party of India or Congress leaders from Vidarbha,all have based their arguments on Ambedkars writing and speeches documented between 1952 and 1956,to substantiate creation of a separate Vidarbha state encompassing 11 districts with Nagpur as its capital.
In the 1950s,Ambedkar had strongly supported the inclusion of Bombay (now Mumbai) in Maharashtra. He was not in favour of handing over Bombay to Gujarat. However,Ambedkar believed united Maharashtra would be difficult in terms of good governance as each region had its own culture and socio-economic problems. Therefore,he had recommended division of Maharashtra into four smaller states Western Maharashtra,Central Maharashtra,Eastern Maharashtra and Bombay City State. The concept of Eastern Maharashtra included 11 districts now in Vidarbha region.
Ambedkar had warned that western Maharashtra under the rule of Marathas would not be able to give justice to backward regions of Marathwada (then Central Maharashtra) and Vidarbha (Eastern Maharashtra),and asserted that creation of smaller states would help in their development.
The 62 MLAs and 11 Lok Sabha MPs across party lines from the region are now unanimous in voicing their concern over total neglect of Vidarbha. Though Ambedkar outlined the four states based on the geographical boundaries in existence in 1950s,the concept still holds with some changes, said a leader from the region.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said: The theory of smaller states,which is the policy of BJP,was echoed by Ambedkar before the State Reorganisation Commission six decades ago. The critical issues that he had mentioned pertaining to injustice to Vidarbha because of political neglect has proved right. He added: It is not an issue confined to any political party or region. Creation of Vidarbha is a necessity to deliver good governance and dispel the regional imbalance through socio-economic development.
The Republican Party of India led by Ramdas Athavale has launched a district-wise agitation in Vidarbha to highlight the demand for statehood. RPI is an alliance partner of Shiv Sena,which is opposed to a separate Vidarbha state. Yet,it has taken the decision to intensify its agitation along with big ally BJP. The separate statehood has also given the RPI a political opportunity to reaffirm its identity in the region that has the maximum (12-14 per cent) Dalit population in Maharashtra.
According to Dalit writer Arjun Dangle,Since the days of Ambedkar,we have supported the cause of smaller states. Ambedkars division of Maharashtra clearly outlines the case for Vidarbha as an independent state. The dominance of ruling Marathas from Western Maharashtra in the last six decades has failed to give justice to backward Vidarbha.
Senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said: The creation of Vidarbha is not an issue related to any emotive or political plank. Ambedkar has logically documented the reasons for separate statehood for Vidarbha. What more proof are we seeking? Is there any leader measuring his stature? Why are we not implementing his theory when the ground situation so warrants?
Congress minister Nitin Raut admits: I have always been a staunch Ambedker supporter. I support separate Vidarbha.
Former Union minister Vilasrao Muttemwar,along with local leaders,have urged the AICC to reconsider Vidarbhas case along with Telangana.