Raipur: Head of the Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress party, Nand Kumar Patel, Saturday denied that he supported the formation of a separate state of Bastar and said that he was misquoted by a section of the press.
"I do not favour creation of a separate Bastar state. Bastar is an integral part of Chhattisgarh," Patel told a news agency over phone.
Asked about his remarks, he clarified: "I said that to a question by a scribe at a press conference in Jagdalpur Wednesday. I had said that `Bastar wale yadi chahennge, to Congress iska virodh nahi karegi` (Congress will not oppose if people of Bastar want a separate state)."
"I also added in my statement at the press conference that Bastar, which is spread out over 40,000 sq kms and is bigger than Kerala, is an integral part of Chhattisgarh and I am not authorised to make any comment on separate statehood issue because it`s a policy matter. The issue has snowballed and several things have been added to my statement," Patel said.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and even Congress leaders have criticised Patel.
The BJP has issued a statement terming his remark "unwarranted and highly irresponsible".
Congress leader and state`s former chief minister Ajit Jogi said in a statement: "Remark by Patel for a separate Bastar state is his personal opinion and people of Chhattisgarh, including inhabitants of Bastar, can never agree for a bifurcation of the state."
Sources said Patel briefed the Congress central leadership Saturday in a bid to salvage his image.
The state`s Maoist-affected Bastar region comprises Bijapur, Dantewada, Bastar, Narayanpur and Kanker districts.