Maharashtra Food and Civil Supplies Minister and senior NCP leader Anil Deshmukh tells  Sanjana Chappalli that it is now time for a Vidarbha state

Photo: Deepak Salvi

You have declared full support for a separate Vidarbha state. Is this the official stand of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)? Or a compulsion that you feel as an elected representative from Nagpur in Vidarbha?
Our party president, Sharad Pawar, has always maintained that a separate state of Vidarbha should be created if people from the region come forward with that demand. It is an official statement from the party. I only repeated our party president’s promise to the people of Vidarbha.

There are always many opinions to consider on an issue such as this…
We should make sure that the demand for Vidarbha is a majority one. But I know there will always be a controversy on an issue such as this. Our president’s stand is very clear on this – if the people of Vidarbha want a separate state, they will have one.

Maharashtra has a coalition government. Congress leader and Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said that the Congress and NCP may have different positions on the matter, but the government’s position will be determined jointly.
In the Assembly, the demand for Vidarbha is supported by the NCP, Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Republican Party of India. The only opposition is from the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

What you are saying then is that the Maharashtra government has reached consensus on this issue, since both the Congress and the NCP support the Vidarbha statehood demand.
Formation of a separate state always generates controversy. Within parties, there are MPs and MLAs who support the Vidarbha demand and some who don’t. This is true of the Congress party in Maharashtra as well.

If there isn’t consensus within a party, how will people at large ever reach consensus on these issues?
Some procedure has to be adopted to reach that consensus.

What is that procedure?
That is for the government to decide.

Is there a suggestion from the NCP about the procedure to be adopted?
The government will put forward a suggestion based on discussions with all the parties.

We have seen the controversy generated by the announcement of a separate state of Telangana. What lessons do you think we can learn from that?
Initially, it seemed like there was clear consensus in favour of Telangana. The problem erupted over the issue of Hyderabad. And I am sure a similar controversy will emerge in Vidarbha as well.

‘THE ONLY OPPOSITION IS FROM THE SHIV SENA AND THE MAHARASHTRA NAVNIRMAN SENA’

Has the creation of smaller states helped address the problems of regional neglect and backwardness? We have Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as examples.
Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are specific examples. Each region is different and should be treated as such.

You have announced support for the protest march called by the Vidarbha Rajya Sangram Samiti on January 20. Will the NCP then take part in the protest march?
I will participate as Anil Deshmukh, a NCP party worker.

This article was originally published in Tehelka, a leading independent news magazine in India, known for its investigative journalism. 

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