Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday had to explain to the Shiv Sena, the BJP's coalition partner, that he was the chief minister of "Akhand Maharashtra," meaning undivided Maharashtra, after demands in the state Assembly that the Vidarbha region be separated from the state. Fadnavis is originally from Nagpur, which is the biggest city in the 13-district Vidarbha region.
It may be noted that there have been a number of attempts for a separate Vidarbha in the past, primarily because residents of the region in the eastern part of Maharashtra feel they have been ignored by the leaders and government of the state, who have concentrated more on the Marathwada region on the west, resulting in more development there.
This was quite evident when rampant farmer suicides in the region went seemingly unheeded by the state as well as the Central government for quite some time, despite constant reporting by news outlets. It was only after protracted protests by the farmers themselves as well as activists from all around the country that the matter received the attention it deserved.
Vidarbha has also been the plank for electoral politics, with noted Congress leaders and former Union ministers NKP Salve and Vasant Sathe establishing the Vidarbha Rajya Nirman Congress in 2003. Local leader Banwarilal Purohit, who has been a member of the Lok Sabha both on a Congress and a BJP ticket, formed the Vidarbha Rajya Party in 2004. Neither party exists as of now, and Vidarbha's separation from Maharashtra had become an almost non-issue in the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections because Vidarbhites felt Fadnavis would better their lot if he came to power.
Now, the demand for a separate Vidarbha has been revived again, and slogans to this end were raised in the state Assembly on Tuesday, prompting Shiv Sena member Sunil Prabhu to ask Fadnavis to clarify his stand on the issue. It was to this that the BJP leader replied he was chief minister of an undivided Maharashtra. He also said: "While the BJP has been in favour of (creation of) smaller states, the Shiv Sena has opposed it. Both the parties are in the government. This is not the government's stand."