Published On : Sun, May 22nd, 2016

“Did not expect this turn around from Gadkari” say Vidarbha activists with a heavy heart

Nagpur: In a self declaration he signed just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Nitin Gadkari promised a delegation of pro-Vidarbha Nagpurians that –

I also assure to forcefully raise and agitate the issue of Vidarbha state at all levels including Parliament if I am elected to the Lok Sabha.”


Many Vidarbhites are of the firm opinion that it was this whole hearted support of separate Vidarbha that garnered such a rich harvest of both Lok Sabha and later Vidhan Sabha seats for the BJP. 
“Based on their promise, they made an almost clean sweep! It was NOT the Modi wave that got them seats in Vidarbha – otherwise they would have won equally in Western Maharashtra also. But if they won 6 out of 10 M.P. seats and 44 out of 62 M.L.A. seats it was because of their understanding and support of the Vidarbha issue, said Advocate Mukesh Samarth, President of V Connect.
Viewers cannot believe that it is this same Nitin Gadkari who is a changed man now, sings a different tune about demand for Vidarbha and went up to the extent of saying in an interview he gave to TV channel Aaj Tak on Saturday, 21st May, that “where is the demand for Vidarbha? Even 400 people cannot be gathered together for an agitation on a separate state. People of Nagpur are very happy with me, and what we are doing for the city – metro, Aiims hospital, International Airport etc. this talk of Vidarbha is only by a handful of my political opponents.”
And then he said words that were like cruel barbs for Vidarbhites – “B.J.P. is in favour of small states. Let a demand for Vidarbha be made vociferously, we will definitely respond positively!”
Nitin Gadkari said this in reponse to a clip he was shown of two Nagpurians who were asked by Aaj Tak about what they thought of two years of Gadkari’s performance as Minister.
“He is highway Minister… but where are ‘achche din’ for Nagpur roads? Look at the state of the Nagpur – Hyderabad highway! Let Gadkari not forget that he is elected M.P. representing 13 lakh Nagpur voters first and Minister later” said one person.
Another asked ” where are the 50,000 jobs per year he promised in MIHAN when he went around making all those powerpoint presentations?
What has happened to their poll promise of separate Vidarbha? “
(Gadkari claimed that 13,000 jobs have been created in MIHAN this year and the audience clapped in appreciation. “This is a cruel hoax” say local people.)
It was clear that Gadkari who sailed through the rest of the interview, where questioning audience was quite polite and complimentary, was clearly rankled by these questions and was quick to denounce the questioners as “my political opponents !” (Implying someone from Congress party).
One of the persons in fact was Journalist Narendra Vairagade who is an independent minded person not favouring any political party.
“He wants people to become violent and die while agitating for Vidarbha?” Asks a pained Wamanrao Chatap, who has devoted his life to selflessly fighting for Vidarbha causes, specially farmers’ issues.
“We will not let our youngsters die for Vidarbha… he (Gadkari) wants violence, we, the old men will give our lives” he says firmly.
He disclosed to NT that in some months, as soon as they are ready with their preparations, they will launch an agitation akin to Quit India which freedom fighters fought against British rule.
 Vidarbha deta ki jaata? Ki lokancha latha khata?” ( Will you give Vidarbha or quit? Otherwise be prepared to be kicked out by people.)Will be the question they will ask ruling BJP categorically.
Living mostly as he does in Delhi now, and being one of Modi’s “5 star Ministers” Gadkari seems to be oblivious to the growing ground swell of discontent, frustration and anger that is brewing in Vidarbha – especially rural Vidarbha. Fanning this feeling are speakers like Advocate Shreehari Aney, Gadkari’s own party man Nitin Ronghe, who is running ‘Mahavidarbha Jan Jagran’ and Chatap  etc.who are going round educating people taluka by taluka about what ails Vidarbha and why we must have a separate state or perish.
Come next general elections, BJP will pay a heavy price for this turn around on Vidarbha, people NT spoke to opine.
“If you do not see agitators on the roads, it does not mean there is no demand. It is not correct of Gadkariji to say this is not a live issue. These days people are more internet and social media savvy, when the time comes they will use this medium to whip up an anti-BJP wave if need be…” says Tejinder Singh Renu. (He, Advocate Mukesh Samarth and Naidu were the three men to whom Gadkari had given his signed self declaration.)
If after all this dedication to the cause of Vidarbha he himself still feels there is no support for it, the solution is simple – let them carry an official plebiscite on it, says Tejinder. 
“They are going to have local NMC elections in some months, Let them have a separate ballot box asking if people want Vidarbha – they will definitely get an overwhelmingly convincing reply” states Renu firmly.
The most damning response to Gadkari ‘turnaround’ comes from his party man Nitin Ronghe.
“Gadkari has been agitating for Vidarbha since he became an MLC many years ago. He was the one who mooted the creation of separate Vidarbha at the BJP convention in Bhuvaneshwar. In fact, he cut across party lines to reach out to Datta Meghe ( then in NCP), Ranjeet Deshmukh (Congress), Dhyaneshwar Dhyane Patil (Shiv Sena) and B.T. Deshmukh ( independent) on this issue. 
How can he dismiss this issue as of ‘no relevance’ now? It is shocking, because Gadkariji has been known to be a Man of his words…” Nitin asks.
“That is the tragedy of Vidarbha. We have had important politicians going back on their word and stabbing the movement in its back… that is why we are still suffering and lagging so much in development” says Mukesh Samarth sadly.
What about the Nagpur metro and all such projects the duo of Gadkari and Fadnavis are bringing to Nagpur, I ask.
“Do not give us chocolates” says Ronghe. “Who is going to travel in these metros. Where are the young professionals who will use it? Even now 16 out of 20 educated youth have to migrate out of Nagpur for jobs”.
At Gadkari’s Aaj tak p.c. one adoring female fan asked him to sing. “I am a bathroom singer ” said Gadkari, “I do not sing in public”.
One Nagpurian asks sarcastically – Is Vidarbha a bathroom song that you sang once and are now disclaiming publicly?
As we file this report, a meeting of the core committee of the Vidarbha movement has begun in MLA guest house. Eminent speakers and leaders like Dr. Khandewale, Dhananjay Rewatkar, Ramesh Gajbhe ( former MLA), Madhu Kukde ( also ex MLA) Dilip Marwatiya, Babu Gawande, Nanda Parte, Shyambhau Wagh, Vishnupant Ashtekar and Wamanrao Chatap are deliberating at this meeting. They will issue a formal statement at a press conference they will hold later in the day.
NT is giving a preview of the ‘summer of discontent’ that lies ahead for ruling BJP.
…. Sunita Mudaliar ( Associate Editor )