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Vidarbha puddle awaits Advani in Nagpur

Pankaj Upadhyaya in Nagpur | March 18, 2004 13:32 IST
Last Updated: March 18, 2004 13:34 IST

Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's statement that the National Democratic Alliance does not support the demand for a separate state of Vidarbha seems to have only further stoked the controversy.

All political parties – Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP - have been paying lip service to this emotional demand of the people of eastern Maharashtra.

However, former BJP MP from Nagpur Banwarilal Purohit says the party had passed a resolution as far back as 1994, in Bhubaneswar, supporting the demand. He is no longer with the BJP and now heads the Vidarbha Rajya Aghadi, a regional outfit.

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He accuses the BJP of backstabbing the people of Vidarbha. His party will contest all the seats in the region highlighting the statehood demand.

Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari sought to clear the air. He insists the BJP continues to support the statehood demand. But, it is not on the NDA's agenda.

The party's ally in the state, the Shiv Sena, is staunchly opposed to the demand. Gadkari says that since the Sena is part of the NDA, the BJP has to compromise.

The BJP has gained nationwide acceptability by heading the coalition, which comprises parties that have a 'secular outlook'. Hence, it has time and again stated that it will follow the NDA agenda.

However, Maharashtra Congress chief Ranjit Deshmukh, who hails from the region, is not convinced. "They are only trying to obscure the issue. After all, does the BJP not head the NDA?"

Either way, this most backward region of Maharashtra continues to languish even as political parties decide which side of the fence they want to be.

Click here for the yatra route map

The people of Vidarbha, which comprises 11 districts of eastern Maharashtra, hope that a separate state will ensure faster development as the political focus refuses to budge from Mumbai and western Maharashtra, which are already well-developed.

People have hopes of the BJP because it has supported and ensured formation of at least three new and smaller states: Uttaranchal (from Uttar Pradesh), Jharkhand (from Bihar) and Chhattisgarh (from Madhya Pradesh).

What Advani says at Friday's rally in Nagpur may well decide the BJP's fate in the region.

Complete coverage of Advani's yatra

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