The Centre's decision to carve out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh has given a much-needed boost to the proponents of a new Vidarbha state out of Maharashtra.
Ruling Congress MPs from Vidarbha Vilas Muttemwar (Nagpur) and Datta Meghe (Wardha) took a lead to press for the formation of a separate Vidarbha state.
Muttemwar, senior Congress MP from Nagpur and a protagonist of the statehood campaign for Vidarbha, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urged him to take steps for creation of a separate Vidarbha.
In a letter to the PM, Muttemwar said people of Vidarbha had been peacefully demanding statehood to Vidarbha region since long. The region has great potential and was economically viable, he said.
The proposal for creation of separate Vidarbha has been studied by many committees from time to time, Muttemwar said while thanking him for settling the Telangana issue once for all and agreed for separate Telangana state.
Both the MPs told Business Standard that they had faith in the Congress high command and hoped that a suitable decision would be taken soon in this regard.
A state government official, however, warned that the statehood issue needed to be taken with due care as the rest of Maharashtra would have to enter into separate agreements for procuring power and developing mines, in particular.
"Vidarbha is quite rich in coal and manganese, and iron ore and limestone have been identified as potential mining resources. Besides, it houses power projects which generate over 3,500 Mw. Even though Vidarbha enjoys adverse publicity due to a large number of farmer suicides, it is quite rich in cash crops such as cotton, oranges and soyabean.
Amravati is the largest orange growing district. It has also become quite infamous due to growing Naxal activities. The formation of a separate Vidarbha state will have a direct impact on the state's economy," the official said.
The official informed that implementation of the prime minister's Rs 3,000-crore package and a similar package of Rs 1,000 crore by the state government have yielded positive results as there has been a substantial fall in farmer suicides. Besides, farmers are adopting a change in crop pattern to avoid heavy dependence on cotton and soyabean.
Girish Gandhi, leader of the ruling partner Nationalist Congress Party, favoured the formation of a Vidarbha state. He recalled that the Fazal Ali Commission, as early as in the 1950s, had then recommended separate states for Telangana and Vidarbha for speedy growth.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said his party had been consistently pressing for a separate Vidarbha state. "There should not be further delay on the formation of a separate Vidarbha," he added.
On the other hand, the BJP's ally Shiv Sena is opposed to a separate Vidarbha state as it wants that the development can be expedited in a planned manner.
Interestingly, the Vidarbha Economic Development Council, a representative body of industry and commerce, has also joined the bandwagon in making a strong case for a separate Vidarbha state.
Govinda Daga, former president of the council, said Vidarbha's potential in agriculture, industry and mining remained untapped as paltry allocations were made for various projects compared to other regions, especially the highly developed western Maharashtra.