Mumbai: In a new move, the Nationalist Congress Party on Sunday asked for a plebiscite for Vidarbha statehood by the Election Commission on the lines of Goa. Party chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said that though they were in favour of united Maharashtra, the people’s verdict after the referendum will be respected.
Significantly, the NCP’s new stand came after the BJP changed its position on Vidarbha statehood by not incorporating the issue in their election manifesto.
During an interaction, Mr Pawar said that the NCP believes in united Maharashtra, but they were ready to respect the people’s mandate. “We don’t believe in referendums carried out by private organisations in one or two cities. Instead, if a plebiscite is conducted by the Election Commission, then the NCP will respect the verdict of the people,” Mr Pawar said.
He also gave the example of Goa when it was given the choice of remaining as a Union territory or merging with Maharashtra. “An opinion poll was conducted, 49.5 per cent people voted for merger with Maharashtra, but 51.5 per cent votes were polled to keep Goa as a Union territory. The results were respected by all,” the NCP chief recalled.
Interestingly, the BJP, whose leaders were very vocal about Vidarbha statehood, chose to dump the issue from its election manifesto. The party seems to have taken a cautious stand on the matter, fearing that it might hamper the party’s popularity.
Taking a jibe at the BJP on Vidarbha statehood, Mr Pawar said that it was their (BJP) right what to remove and what to include in their manifesto, but so far all the leaders of the BJP were openly supporting separate Vidarbha state demand by saying that their party supports the concept of small states.
Political observers pointed out that it was the first time that Mr Pawar had supported the demand of Vidarbha statehood in such a manner.
A senior BJP leader admitted that the issue of Vidarbha was purposely left out of the manifesto. “Every issue has various aspects and Vidarbha statehood is not an exception. It is also possible that in the future the Shiv Sena finds itself as the ‘odd man out’ on the issue. But, as of now we found the need to include it in the manifesto as we have not mentioned the same in our previous manifestos,” said the senior leader, requesting anonymity.