Protesters demand merger of Belagavi district in Karnataka with Maharashtra(HT Archive)
Protesters demand merger of Belagavi district in Karnataka with Maharashtra(HT Archive)

Belagavi’s Marathis accuse BJP, Congress of ignoring region

  • The Marathi speaking people in the region have sought the inclusion of Belagavi, Karwar, Balki, Bidar and Nipani with Maharashtra.
By Sharan Poovanna, Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
PUBLISHED ON FEB 23, 2021 11:46 AM IST

The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), an umbrella organisation created to integrate Marathi speaking majority districts of Karnataka with Maharashtra, will neither support the Congress nor the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha by-polls, accusing the two national parties of ignoring the issues of the region.

“As a group, we will not be supporting anybody. All these national parties are of no use to us,” Deepak Dalvi, a senior MES leader told Hindustan Times.

Formed in 1948, the group has been fighting for the inclusion of Marathi speaking areas, on the border shared by the two states, in Maharashtra.

“They (national parties) just milk our cause for their (political) reasons. Once the bypolls are declared and we know the candidates, we will come up with a strategy whether it is to field our own candidate, go for NOTA or abstain from the entire election itself,” Prakash Margale, another MES leader said.

The Marathi speaking people in the region have sought the inclusion of Belagavi, Karwar, Balki, Bidar and Nipani with Maharashtra, ever since the areas, then part of the Bombay State, were made parts of then Mysore State under the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided the states along linguistic and administrative lines.

According to the 2011 Census, over 50% of the district’s population are Marathi speakers. In Karnataka, 3.95% are Marathi speakers.

In previous elections, the MES tried to mobilize the people to press NOTA, backed independents or boycotted the polls. In the 2019 elections, there were 48 independents who contested the Belagavi Lok Sabha elections. The 48 independents mustered only 60,605 votes out of the total 1205229 polled in the district. NOTA or none of the above accounted for 3243 votes or 0.27% of the total polls.

In 2013, Sambaji Patil and Aravind Patil, both backed by the MES won the Belagavi North and Khanapur, about 26 km from Belagavi city.

“One of the reasons for MES not participating in Lok Sabha elections is that by breaking constituencies (both parliamentary and assembly) in a very selective manner and using the policy of gerrymandering, Karnataka government has created constituencies that change the demographic components. That has adversely affected the prospects of the MES in the recent elections,” Deepak Pawar, Mumbai-based political analyst and faculty at the University of Mumbai said.

The issue gained significance recently after Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray suggested that the “disputed” area be made into Union territory.

Reacting to the MES decision to not support it in the upcoming by-election, Laxmi Hebbalkar, Congress MLA from Belagavi Rural, said, “The MES does not have any connection on the ground with the border issue and the people here are more interested in development and equality.”

“They will state that they do not want to support any of us but no one listens to these leaders anymore,” Prabhakar Kore, a senior BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha member said.

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