Vidarbha issue comes back to haunt Devendra Fadnavis
An open call for a referendum on statehood by state advocate general triggers opposition protest in Maharashtra assembly
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Mumbai: His support for a separate state of Vidarbha while in the opposition has put Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on the back foot even with ally Shiv Sena.
An open call for a referendum on statehood by state advocate general Shreehari Aney triggered opposition protest in the assembly, forcing Fadnavis to promise that he will soon make a statement on the issue.
The issue has been a flashpoint between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena for a long time. The BJP supports statehood, but the Sena, which has built its politics on the idea of a united Maharashtra for all Marathi-speakers, has been a bitter opponent.
Aney, appointed as advocate general two months ago, supports statehood for Vidarbha. Last week, at an event to release his book on the history of the agitation for Vidarbha, Aney said the only means to find out if the people in Vidarbha supported statehood was a referendum.
The Shiv Sena sought Aney’s removal for holding an anti-Maharashtra position. It also moved a breach of privilege motion against Aney, which was rejected on Tuesday. “As the advocate general I obviously represent Maharashtra,” Aney said in an interview. “But as an individual, I have my own position on issues.”
Aney has put Fadnavis in a tight spot, a BJP spokesperson said on condition of anonymity. “It is clearly an embarrassment for the chief minister. He cannot support the referendum call nor can he accept the demand to sack Aney since the eminent legal luminary has been a sort of mentor for Fadnavis,” he said.
Fadnavis is a law graduate and has trained under Aney before entering politics. However, Deepak Pawar, a professor at the Mumbai University’s faculty of political science, does not agree that Aney’s view has embarrassed Fadnavis.
“Fadnavis would appear to have been embarrassed but he is not actually. He is in fact leading the charge on the Vidarbha statehood issue,” Pawar said.
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