No force can divide Maharashtra: Modi

PM counters charges that BJP plans to carve out Vidarbha

No force can divide Maharashtra: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday declared that “no force can divide Maharashtra,” virtually taking the wind out of the sail of opposition campaign that he was trying to undermine the importance of the state.

Modi's remarks came at an election rally in Dhule in north Maharashtra, but he refrained from touching on the issue in subsequent rallies in the Vidarbha region, apparently keeping voter sensitivities in mind.

“Congress leaders have started spreading a new lie. They say that Maharashtra will be split. I assure you that as long as I am in Delhi, no power in the world can split Maharashtra,” said Modi at the Dhule rally.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has for long been in favour of a separate Vidarbha, a region in eastern Maharashtra that consists of 11 districts. However, it had not raised the issue vigorously given its alliance with the Shiv Sena, which is strongly opposed to the idea of bifurcation of the state.

Since the three-decade-old saffron alliance broke apart on September 25, the Sena has gone to town claiming that the BJP severed ties with it to bifurcate Maharashtra.

Congress leaders, too, have been accusing the BJP of trying to undermine the importance of Maharashtra by shifting key departments of the Mumbai-headquartered Reserve Bank of India to Delhi. The Congress has also accused the BJP trying to divert port traffic from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Maharashtra to Mundra port in Gujarat.

In his 35-minute address at a rally in Nagpur late on Tuesday evening, Modi talked at length about taking Maharashtra and Mumbai back to the days when it provided financial leadership to the country.

“There was a time when Maharashtra and Mumbai used to drive the nation, but 15 years of the misrule of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress has set us back,” Modi told a huge gathering at the Kasturchand Park ground here.

In Vidarbha, the sentiment of a separate state, though not strong, is prevalent among the people and articulated by leaders.

Dalit leader Sulekha Kumbhare, an ally of the BJP, told a rally here that only the BJP could deliver a separate Vidarbha.

The stakes are high for the BJP, the Congress and the Shiv Sena in the 62 seats of the region, with the NCP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Seva virtually non-existent here.

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