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Party will have to tread carefully on Belgaum

india Updated: May 27, 2008 02:10 IST
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
Hindustan Times
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It is a win they were desperate for. But the victory in Karnataka is likely to bring some discomfort to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra.

The party will now have to be very careful about the stand it takes on the dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra over the Marathi-dominated border district of Belgaum. “Linguistc identity has, in recent times, become a dominant flavour of Maharashtra politics,” said political scientist B. Venkatesh Kumar. “With the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, one needs to look at the positioning of the Maharashtra BJP, especially when its ally, the Shiv Sena, is very vocal about Belgaum.”

The BJP has won seven of the 10 seats in Belgaum, even affecting the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which has been fighting for Belgaum to be included in Maharashtra.

The Sena has been very aggressive about the Marathi-speaking population in Belgaum with party chief Bal Thackeray threatening in 2005 to attack Kannadigas in Maharashtra if a single Marathi-speaking person was harmed in Belgaum. Nearly half the population in Belgaum is Marathi-speaking. Despite this, the district was included in Karnataka.

Sena leader Subhash Desai said, “The Sena will try to pursue this issue. With the BJP in power there (Karnataka), we will appeal to them.”

Maharashtra BJP’s state general secretary Madhu Chavan said the party’s central leadership would try its best to evolve a solution. “As far as Maharashtra BJP is concerned we are with Shiv Sena and the people of Belgaum. If Marathi-speaking people in the area want to live in Maharashtra then their demand must be met.”

Kumar said the issue could create some tension between the allies. “It will require a lot of political maneuvering at a senior level on both sides,” he said.