“We have not given up on the demand. In fact, it is the BJP’s principled stand. The party is in favour of smaller states. Carving out of a separate state comes under the jurisdiction of the central leadership. The decision will be taken when the time is right,” said Fadnavis, during an interaction with mediapersons late Friday.
In 2014, the BJP had struck a chord with voters in the cotton rich belt pledging to carve out a separate state of Vidarbha once elected to power. In that election, the party ended up winning 44 out of the 62 seats in the region.
But the 2014 promise has remained unfulfilled, with alliance partner Shiv Sena being a strong votary of a unified Maharashtra. Just as the party’s manifesto for the state polls has omitted the mention of a separate statehood, the CM’s latest remark, which was made while replying to a query on the issue, come just three days before the Assembly polls.
With Fadnavis himself hailing from the region, the BJP has set its eyes of “bettering its 2014 tally” this time.
“The Mahajanadesh Yatra (Fadnavis’ pre-election yatra) and the rallies have received an unprecedented response, We will sweep polls across all regions,” said Fadnavis, predicting a bigger win in Vidarbha as compared to 2014, even as sources said that the 2014 performance in the region would be difficult to beat.
In another reach out to Sena, Fadnavis, indicated that the proposal of offering the deputy chief minister’s position to the ally if the alliance is re-elected to power can be considered. At the start of the campaign leg for the election, the Sena had pitched for equal sharing of the CM’s post while projecting Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray as the party’s face in the election. But as the campaigning has progressed, the discussion in this regard has taken a backseat.
On Friday, Fadnavis also admitted that there had been two streams of thought within the BJP over contesting the state polls in alliance with Sena. “There was a section within the party that felt we should contest independently as our own internal surveys were showing that we can form a government on our own. But the central leadership was of the opinion that we should take our friends along with us. Even I held the same view. What happened the last time (in 2014) was unfortunate but we have learnt from our mistake. If we repeat it again, our credibility will be affected,” the CM said.
While admitting to the past five years had seen ups and downs in the alliance, Fadnavis said, “We have learnt to coordinate with each other in these five years.”
He also admitted that the rebellion in BJP and Sena ranks will hamper prospects on certain seats.
Speaking on the current economic crisis, Fadnavis said that the government had already taken steps to spur demand. “It’s true that the economic growth projection for the current fiscal has slipped from 7 per cent to 5.8 per cent, but I feel that the growth rate will be good in a year’s time.”
The CM said that the Centre’s decision to push Rs 100 lakh crore in capital investment in the public sector would boost demand and production. He claimed that the “banks should be more proactive” in lending sums for public and private infrastructure after the government’s remonetisation move.
Justifying the move to make the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status a poll issue, Fadnavis said that issue was resonating with the masses during the campaign, as it “had exposed the Congress, NCP’s stance on it”.
Claiming that the BJP was running an election campaign themed around the promise of a drought-free state and trillion dollar economy (by 2024), Fadnavis attacked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had earlier this week said that Maharashtra and Mumbai were the worst affected by the economic slowdown and unemployment.
“Maharashtra was fourth or fifth in attracting investment when the Congress was in power at the Centre and in the state. We have been number one for three years consecutively now. Independent reports by industry bodies have also proven that Maharashtra is the leader in job creation. Also, the size of the state’s economy has grown from 16 lakh crore (2014) to 26 lakh crore (2019),” said Fadnavis.
“His criticism was political in nature. Our economy is stronger, more investment friendly and creates more jobs than it did when Congress was at the helm.”
On the scandal-riden Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank, Fadnavis, besides indicating that the government would push for a merger of the bank with another bank, said that he had plans to approach the Centre for permission to “use the powers” at the state’s disposal to the return the money to the scam-hit investors.