Mumbai, Dec. Dec 7: The Shiv Sena on Monday demanded the resignation of Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney for propounding the cause of a separate Vidarbha state, even as pro-Vidarbha groups rushed to his support.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut made the demand while reacting to Aney's statement seeking a referendum on the sensitive issue.
Aney stuck to his stand by saying he respected the Sena sentiments, but what he had stated was "historically correct".
He said legislators have a right to raise issues in the assembly and even (Shiv Sena) could raise it, though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sought to downplay the matter.
On Sunday, speaking at a function to release his book, 'Vidarbha Gatha' (Vidarbha Saga), Aney asked for a referendum on the issue and said if 51 percent people vote in favour, the centre must carve out a separate Vidarbha from Maharashtra.
Aney -- grandson of former Congress MP and pro-Vidarbha campaigner -- expressed confidence that more than 80 percent of the people in the region would vote in favour (of Vidarbha) and that is why the centre was reluctant to take it up.
Endorsing Aney, senior Congress leader and moving spirit behind Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti (VRAS) Vikram Bokey said that in a mini-referendum conducted last year in Akola, Amravati, Bhandara, Chandrapur, Nagpur and Yavatmal, 97 percent of the respondents voted in favour of separate state.
"The 2.50 crore people of Vidarbha strongly feel that the region has faced the brunt of stepmotherly treatment by non-Vidarbha leaders and parties. On behalf of our top activists Shriniwas Khandawale, Wamanrao Chatap, Ram Newale and others, we urged the Bharatiya Janata Party to implement its election promises and immediately carve out a separate Vidarbha," Bokey told IANS.
Criticising Aney's statement, Congress senior leader in Council Sanjay Dutt asked: "How can a Constitutional authority like the advocate-general representing the entire state, demanding its splitting and making a separate Vidarbha?"
Aney pointed out that several referendums by NGOs and other groups, have indicated the pro-Vidarbha sentiments clearly, local bar associations in all 11 districts there have passed unanimous resolutions favouring Vidarbha.
Bokey added that the nature and mindset of the people there is different and "they feel that their unique identity will be protected in a separate state".