The curious case of Prashant Kishor and Vidarbha

Mumbai: Political strategist Prashant Kishor has jumped headlong into an increasingly turbulent Maharashtra politics by aligning himself to certain forces that are looking to revive the six decades old demand for a separate Vidarbha.

Kishor reportedly told his clients that the demand for a separate state still has some purchase and can be revived as a big-ticket agenda in the state’s politics over the coming months. Kishor, who has fallen out with most of his past clients including the BJP, TMC, Congress and the JDU, is looking to anchor himself to a prominent political cause.

Traditionally, the BJP has supported the demand for Vidarbha while the Shiv Sena and the NCP have opposed any territorial break up of Maharashtra. Kishore’s 20-member team, it is learnt, toured the state in July this year and has already readied a detailed report on the 11 districts of the region. The poll strategist is expected to hold a meeting with leaders of Vidarbha statehood movement in Nagpur on 20th September.

Nitin Ronghe who is a petitioner before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court for the formation of Vidarbha statutory development board said he was a part of a virtual meeting with Kishor last week where plans were discussed on how to take the Vidarbha movement forward.

In 2014 Lok Sabha and the state Assembly polls, separate Vidarbha was one of the major election issues. All the pro-Vidarbha parties, including the BJP had raised the issue and promised statehood to the region after coming to power. However, once the BJP was in power, the issue was put on the back-burner as coalition partner Shiv Sena has been strongly opposed to any bifurcation of the state.

Shreehari Aney, former advocate general, who is actively involved in the Vidarbha statehood movement, said they would welcome all practical ideas to take the movement further. “If he (Prashant Kishor) comes with any practical ideas about how to further the movement, we will welcome it. As it stands, the Vidarbha movement has been in existence for the past over 60 years and with an established methodology,” Aney said.

Aney’s political outfit Vidarbha Rajya Aghadi had even fielded candidates in Vidarbha during the state assembly elections in 2019, but failed to win any seats.

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