General elections are just around the corner, but there is trouble brewing between alliance partners Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.
Taking on its coalition partner over the border dispute with BJP-ruled Karnataka, Shiv Sena leaders on Saturday warned they were not averse to calling off the alliance if Marathi residents were targeted in Belgaum.
“I want to tell you all that we will break our alliance with the BJP if Marathi-speaking residents are targeted here,” Leader of Opposition in the assembly Ramdas Kadam said at a gathering in Belgaum.
The long-standing border dispute between the state and Karnataka was re-ignited on Friday when the Karnataka legislative session in Belgaum began on Thursday.
Belgaum, with a majority Marathi-speaking population, has been the bone of contention between the state and Karnataka for years.
Nearly 100 activists of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which is demanding the inclusion of all Marathi-speaking areas of Belgaum district and its neighbourhood in the state, were picked up by the Karnataka police on Thursday.
The Shiv Sena through an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna stated it would not think twice before taking on friends over the issue of integration of Belgaum with the state.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray also warned the BJP against testing its patience.
“We have clearly laid out our position on the Belgaum issue,” Thackeray said. Shiv Sena leaders said party chief Bal Thackeray had held discussions with BJP leader L.K. Advani on the issue.
Still, the state BJP took a rigid stand, risking the alliance. State BJP president Nitin Gadkari said the Shiv Sena had the right to decide whether it wanted to continue with the alliance or not. “Snapping ties is their (Sena’s) right,” he said.
“If they want to take a unilateral decision, it is their prerogative.”