The issue of separate Vidarbha state is expected to trigger a political storm again when Maharashtra goes to Assembly polls later this year. In 2014 BJP raised the issue dominantly and emerged the biggest gainer. Thereafter the issue may have taken a backseat but there was a time when elections were fought and won on this issue.
Statehood to Vidarbha was one of the biggest issues in Nagpur in the first Assembly elections of undivided Maharashtra in 1962. Nagpur became the second capital of Maharashtra after being the capital of Central Provinces and Berar was the first to send its representatives to the Maharashtra Assembly. Two independent candidates won on the plank of a separate Vidarbha state stunning stalwart of the Congress, which was considered to be invincible then. Giants like Vasant Sathe and AB Bardhan suffered defeat in this election. The independents could not win in the rural areas, but they were runners-up in all seats except for the Kamptee Assembly constituency.
At present, there are six Assembly seats in the city, but at that time there were only four. They were identified numerically instead of geographically as now like Nagpur 1, 2 and 3. The highest number of voters (94565) was in Nagpur 1 area. However, there were same number of seats in rural areas like today – Katol, Kalmeshwar, Saoner, Ramtek and Hingna.
After the 1962 election results came in, it was clear that the government could not be formed without support from pro-Vidarbha MLAs. Apart from independents, more than half of the Congress legislators were Vidarbha supporters whereas, in western Maharashtra, msg of the MLAs were opposed to the division of the state. However, Congress MLAs from Vidarbha did not put any pressure on the government for a separate state. Politicians say that if Vidarbha legislator had shown unity at the time, the state of Vidarbha would have been formed in the 1960s.
Nagpur 1: Dandekar defeated Agrawal
Today this seat is known as Central Nagpur. In 1962, Congress fielded Madanagopal Agarwal against Vidarbha proponent Vinayak Dandekar and was defeated. Dandekar got 30,643 votes out of a total of 69,064 votes, while Agrawal was limited to 15,191 votes. Vasant Sathe then secured 12,294 votes as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party while Shankarrao Supare of Jana Sangh (today’s BJP) could not even cross the 4,000 mark.
Nagpur: Balraj could win with only 158 votes
Today’s West Nagpur witnessed the most interesting contest ever. The Communist Party of India fielded its veteran leader A.B. Bardhan from this seat while the Jana Sangh reposed confidence in Sumatitai Suklikar. At that time, Congress used to dominate. Sushilatai Balraj of the party was then also the sitting MLA. But this time she had an uphill task to overcome the popularity of A.B. Bardhan. Everyone was convinced there would be a bitter fight. And there was. Bardhan was only 158 votes behind Sushilatai Balraj. A total of 66,600 exercised their franchise in the elections. Some 1527 votes proved invalid. Sushilatai Balraj secured 12,859 votes while AB Bardhan’s was stopped at 12,701 votes. A senior leader of the Jana Sangh, Sumatitai Suklikar, had to be satisfied with the fourth place. She received 6,385 votes even behind Independent candidate Govind Gopal Bambulkar who finished third with 11,059 votes.
Nagpur 2: Vidarbhaite Hedau proved a heavyweight
This seat is today known as East Nagpur. Vidarbha leader Dasarath Hedau had contested as an independent candidate. He defeated Pratap Singh Bhonsle of the Congress with 33,173 votes. Bhonsle got less than half Hedau’s tally. Ram Jivan Chowdhury of Jana Sangh was placed third among four candidates with 9,787 votes. Out of a total of 84,209 voters in this election, 63,209 exercised their franchise.
Nagpur 3: Congress in third place
This is the assembly seat which is today known as North Nagpur. This seat was reserved for the Scheduled Caste category like it is today. In this seat, Congress had to be satisfied with third place. RPI’s D.P. Meshram won 22,353 votes out of 63,232 votes polled. In second place was Panjabrao Shambharkar who won 19,428 votes as an Independent candidate. Congress’s Premnath Wasnik finished third with 16,642 votes. Motiram Chapke of Jana Sangh was ranked fourth among the five candidates with 2,286 votes.
Clean sweep for Congress in rural areas
Pro- Vidarbha outfits and Congress won two seats each in Nagpur city. Even though the Congress and the Vidarbhites were rivals in the city, the Congress in rural areas got a clean sweep. This election led to the emergence of leaders who have dominated district politics for a long time. Shankarrao Gedam of the Congress won from Katol among a total of five candidates. However, this was not before a bitter fight against the Independent Jivan Lal Chandak. Gedam was able to bag 25,511 votes and won by a margin of only 400 votes. Congress’s Shesharao Wankhede won from Kalmeshwar with 26,054 votes. Independent Indubhushan Bhingare was ranked fourth among the four candidates with 16,467 votes. In Saoner, Narendra Tidke gave Congress a one-sided victory.
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