The demand for separate Vidarbha is not just confined to Nagpur and this myth is being spread by those opposed to statehood for this backward region of Maharashtra, according to Naresh Pugalia, senior Congress leader and firm supporter of the cause.
Pugalia, a former MP and trade unionist, who has remained at the forefront for Vidarbha since long, dismisses that the agitation was limited to this second capital. Infact, the most vocal and aggressive leader for Vidarbha was MP Jambuwantrao Dhote hailing from Yavatmal.
Even before Dhote came in to picture, Brijlal Biyani and Bapuji Ane, also from West Vidarbha region had led the agitation, he said. Decades ago, Ane and Biyani, who were from west Vidarbha, were in forefront of the movement. Even today, Dr Anil Bonde of Amravati is prominently leading the agitation. Same way, those who migrated here and have lived in Nagpur for generations have affinity to the region though they may not be born in Marathi speaking families.
Now, this is their adopted land and they have duty to participate in its growth, Pugalia told PTI. The statehood is imperative to end the injustice being piled on the region since 1960. What is required is a non-political leader known for his honesty, integrity and willingness to take the fight till finish because politicians in the region suffer from trust deficit, he says.
Talking about the raw deal the region has got and why are people reluctant to protest, Pugalia said Vidarbha remained backward and from the day it merged with rest of Maharashtra. As a result, today people in East Vidarbha districts are taking up arms while thousands of farmers have died in West Vidarbha due to economic distress and uncertainties of dryland farming. The region accounts for 23 percent of state's population but when it comes to budgetary allocation, jobs through Maharashtra Public Service Commission, and spending on infrastructure, the share given is not at all proportionate. Those getting jobs of police inspectors, PSIs in revenue and excise department from Vidarbha are only ten percent, he rued.
Ironically, the Congress rules Maharashtra, riding on number of MLAs elected from Vidarbha but they have never got important portfolios in the government like finance, revenue and industry. Thus, they have no say in matters of development, Pugalia said. On favouring a non-political person to lead the Vidarbha movement, Pugalia said all national party leaders have to follow discipline and stay within boundaries created by their respective high commands in Delhi. So be it the Congress, NCP or the BJP, leaders belonging to these parties had to step aside from the agitation because of pressure from their central leadership from time to time.
Citing example of recent visit by region's top BJP leaders led by State BJP president, Davendra Phadanvis, Pugalia said the central leadership's response was cold. So, this now-on, now-off motion of the separate state movement has dealt a huge blow to credibility of the regional leaders.
To overcome this hurdle, I suggested that a social worker like Prakash Amte who is son of social worker of international repute Baba Amte, or anyone else enjoying respect of masses should take a lead to rally public support. We politicians from all parties are ready to guide them. Such independent persons, especially the youth, should take over now following the Telangana model. People should also be ready for sacrifices. Without losing something you can't expect to gain and achieve your goal, he felt.
After the nod to Telangana, there is no logic in denying statehood to Vidarbha. Moreover, national parties will have to take a serious note of public sentiment now because elections are due in six months. So, this is the best time to mount public pressure on the governments in state as well as the Centre, Pugalia said
For this, non-political persons, social leaders and professionals have to step in and youth below 35 years need to spread awareness about the movement and get support. It is the future generation that would gain from formation of Vidarbha state, he said.