A political battle continues to rage in Maharashtra over the demand for the resignation of Maharashtra Advocate General Shreehari Aney for his public speech in support of a separate state of Vidarbha to be carved out of Maharashtra. Shiv Sena has reasons to worry. Within a fortnight of Aney’s public speech, 450 gram panchayats in Vidarbha have passed a resolution for a separate state. All the 11 Bar Associations, too, have passed a resolution to similar effect. Aney has sought referendum in Vidarbha. The outpour of support and opposition has only shown the existence of a strong pro-Vidarbha movement.
Even as the Shiv Sena bays for Aney’s blood, it has turned down requests from the AG himself to hold a discussion on the controversial subject, it emerged in an exclusive interview to The Sunday Guardian.
“I have conveyed it to both Uddhav (Thackeray, Shiv Sena) and Raj (MNS) that I wish to speak with them about the demand for a separate Vidarbha. But both of them haven’t come forward. I believe it is possible to persuade them on purely political consideration, to support the cause of a separate Vidarbha,” Aney said, adding he had the opportunity of meeting the late Balasaheb Thackeray twice when he was alive. “After our second meeting, he had said at his Ramtek speech that if Vidarbha does not develop in the next five years, we will give separate statehood to it,” he said. Raj Thackeray, who has been Shreehari Aney’s client for a few cases, has refused to meet him on this specific subject, Aney said.
Shiv Sena has, till now, come down very heavily on all the supporters of a separate Vidarbha state. But Aney believes that both Shiv Sena and MNS, which detest the idea of division of Maharashtra, can be convinced about the need for a separate Vidarbha. “If the Shiv Sena really has political ambition of going beyond Mumbai, Maharashtra, what stops them is a sense of perspective. There was a time when 60% of India was under the Marathas. What is it that restricts Shiv Sena’s movement towards becoming a national party then? Today, if Maharashtra is divided by the sword of Shivaji into two pieces, the Shiv Sena can govern both the states. The Sena still does not have any perception about the kind of public support it will garner in Vidarbha if it supports the idea of a separate state. Even today, a section of the affluent class of Buldhana and Sindkhed-Raja can give such a strong backing to Sena if it stands for Vidarbha,” he said.
“When we talk of a separate state, the national leadership of major political parties – BJP and Congress — sit in Delhi to calculate about its impact in the parliamentary seat distribution set-up. A similar deliberation takes place at the state level too. When the party in power realises through calculations that it has a reasonable possibility to dominate both the states, it will split Maharashtra,” he said. “If we can politically persuade parties, that is when Vidarbha will happen.” The threat to such strong and vociferous views is clearly evident. At Aney’s Colaba residence, one cannot enter without being questioned by the private building security and the police on guard. Aney talked about the administrative difficulties in being a part of Maharashtra. “A very large portion of land is tried to be administered in Maharashtra. It can be comparable to Uttar Pradesh. Today, Maharashtra is as badly administered as UP,” he said, adding that the failure of the Developmental Boards constituted from 1994 was upsetting. “It showed that a very high-powered constitutional machinery was unable to deliver. The civil administration has failed completely. The ineffectiveness of administration over a large period of time has led to the demand for a separate Vidarbha. There is a need for responsive bureaucracy. Currently, the power centre isn’t Vidarbha, so bureaucracy does not respond to Vidarbha,” Aney said.
Responding to arguments that Vidarbha politicians failed to stop the “unequal resource allocation” and “favourable treatment” to western Maharashtra, he said such arguments always confounded him. “As a state, is it not the joint responsibility of the entire leadership to provide good development? Why is it that western Maharashtra’s politicians extract share for western Maharashtra alone? Why should they pounce on the share of Vidarbha? Is it not theft? How can you blame the politicians of Vidarbha for being unable to stop the theft by other politicians?” he asked.
In his recently written book Vidarbha Gatha (the story of Vidarbha), he has blamed Sharad Pawar for systematically sidelining the development of Vidarbha. “The long tenure of Sharad Pawar as Chief Minister saw the development of western Maharashtra at the cost of Vidarbha. Sharad Pawar occupied the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s post thrice, from 1978 to 1980, 1988 to 1991 and 1993 to 1995. Compared to the reign of other CMs, western Maharashtra prospered most during Sharad Pawar’s chief ministership. This was the same period when Vidarbha suffered its maximum economic deprivation,” Aney has said in the book.