www.outlookindia.com | State Of Play Itâ€™s by now a seasoned demand, the one for a separate Vidarbha state, to be carved out of eastern Maharashtra (comprising 11 districts bordering three states). The movement has peaked more than once over the years but has lacked in critical areas, like in the drama and histrionics of the Telangana movement or the ruthless official decision-making, as has been the case in Uttar Pradesh. That said, â€˜Vidarbhaâ€™ renews its demand each time the small-states issue occupies the national agenda. December 12 is the new date set for another boost to the concept. â€œThis time we are serious about an all-out agitation,â€ says Nagpur-based ex-MP Jambuwantrao Dhote, who has led many agitations on the issue. He realises, though, that the campaign carries a peculiar complexityâ€”the political party at the forefront of it, the BJP, is hemmed in by an alliance partner, Shiv Sena, thatâ€™s bitterly opposed to it. (The Sena claims a part of its lingua-political legacy from the Samyukta Maharashtra movement which led to the creation of Maharashtra in 1960.) â€œWe cannot allow Maharashtra to be divided,â€ says Sena MP Bharat Raut. In addition, the BJP has now to contend with a Sena clone tooâ€”Raj Thackerayâ€™s Maharashtra Navnirman Senaâ€”that also draws its identity and support on the basis of Marathi asmita (identity). This was why the BJP-led NDAâ€”which had created three small states during its reign at the Centreâ€” had been unable to do so for Vidarbha. But this time around BJP state general secretary Vinod Tawde is adamant. â€œWe are committed to statehood for Vidarbha... there are sound economic reasons for it,â€ he says. Colleague and Nagpur MLA Devendra Fadnavis has also convinced the party leadership (not that BJP president Nitin Gadkari whoâ€™s from Nagpur needed much convincing) of these. â€œVidarbha has good quality raw materials and soil, yet it remains backward in development,â€ says Fadnavis. â€œBudget allocation from the Centre is skewed because in united Maharashtra, development and wealth in Mumbai-Pune evens out the extreme low GDP of eastern Maharashtra.â€ The Congress is, so far, in the comfort zone; given the battle between the BJP and Sena, it can afford to stay out. Itâ€™s a relief for AICC general secretary Vilas Muttemwar, for he was once the regionâ€™s mascot for a separate Vidarbha, going as far as to write to PM Manmohan Singh in 2009 to press the demand. But since becoming general secretary, heâ€™s been rather silent. â€œWe are not surprised,â€ says Kishor Tiwari, a social activist whoâ€™s documenting the spate of cotton farmer suicides. â€œThe Congress is responsible for our backwardness. There are Planning Commission reports, fact-finding committee reports, the CAG findings of â€™07 and the Maharashtra governmentâ€™s own papers which all say that thereâ€™s a severe backlog in funds allocated to Vidarbha. How will the region progress?â€ The reports all point to the fact that western Maharashtraâ€”represented by the politically powerful sugar lobby and Maratha politiciansâ€”has cornered the major allocations at the expense of other regions, including Vidarbha. The backlog was in the region of Rs 15,000 crore five years ago, despite the existence of statutory development boards under Article 371 (2) of the Constitution to set right the balance. Now, regional leaders and businessmen are convinced that only a separate state can fulfil their aspirations. Vidarbha, they point out, has everything going for it: itâ€™s not drought-prone like Marathwada, has been power surplus in the last two decades, houses two-thirds of the stateâ€™s mineral resources and three-fourths of forest resources. Itâ€™s a powerful argument that has rallied non-political outfits like Vidarbha Rajya Nirman Samiti, economic/trade associations, and student organisations to join the agitation.