Chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was committed to resolve it by inclusion of the disputed areas in the state. (FILE)
Chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was committed to resolve it by inclusion of the disputed areas in the state. (FILE)

Declare disputed border areas of Karnataka as UT, says Maharashtra CM

CM UddhavThackeray on Wednesday demanded that the Centre declare the disputed border areas in Karnataka as Union Territory (UT) till the Supreme Court’s verdict on the dispute is announced.
By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 28, 2021 01:14 AM IST

While raking up the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute row, chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday demanded that the Centre declare the disputed border areas in Karnataka as Union Territory (UT) till the Supreme Court’s verdict on the dispute is announced.

The CM said that it was a “now or never” battle for Maharashtra and that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was committed to resolve it by inclusion of the disputed areas in the state.

Since the formation of Maharashtra, the two neighbouring states have been in a dispute over Belgaum and other areas where Marathi speaking people reside in large numbers. Maharashtra has staked claim on these areas and the issue pending with the Apex court.

While Maharashtra and the Marathi-speaking people in the disputed border areas have been peacefully fighting the battle, the Karnataka government has been suppressing their voice with arrogance, Thackeray said on Wednesday while speaking at Sahyadri guest house after release of a Marathi book — Maharashtra Karnataka Simawad : Sangharsh Ani Sankalp (Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Dispute : Struggle and Resolve).

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat, state ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Eknath Shinde, leader of Opposition in legislative council Pravin Darekar shared the dais. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis did not attend the function.

“When the issue is pending in the Apex court, the Karnataka government changed the name of Belgaum, set up their second capital there, and held legislative sessions. The Marathi-speaking mayor was booked under sedition charges for taking pro-Marathi stand. This is nothing but the oppression of Marathi-speaking citizens in the border areas. This leads to the contempt of court. There is a need to declare the disputed areas as Union Territory to restrain the Karnataka government from unilateral action,” Thackeray said. The CM said that the oppression continues irrespective of which political party rules Karnataka.

Karnataka water resources minister Ramesh Jarkiholi on Wednesday said that Thackeray was raking up the issue to deflect attention from the poor performance of his government. He said that people in Karnataka have not discriminated against anyone and that no importance should be given to the CM’s statements. “The CM has failed in all aspects and he is using this border issue to emotionally sway people to deflect their attention. No importance should be given to this,” Jarkiholi, who is also the district in-charge minister of Belgaum, said.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the petition pending in the Apex court was the last resort for Maharashtra to bring the disputed areas of Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani in Maharashtra. He said that a certain section of political leadership in Karnataka has created a picture that Maharashtra was adamant over its stand despite Mahajan Commission’s report against it. Pawar said the misconceptions needed to be weeded out to make the ground favourable for the battle.

Meanwhile, Darekar said it was a battle being fought for the Marathi-speaking people and should be looked up beyond politics.

Later in the day, Thackeray chaired a meeting of state government’s high-power committee constituted to take state’s legal battle on the issue forward. Thackeray directed the committee to ensure that the legal battle was expedited.

“We will lead an all-party delegation to the Centre on the issue to ensure inclusion of Belgaum, Karwar, Nipani in Maharashtra at the earliest. The Centre should act neutrally as it is a dispute between two states. Marathi-speaking people from the disputed areas, too, should do away with their differences and fight the battle unitedly,” he said.

Advocate Shivaji Jadhav, who represents Maharashtra government in the case and attended the meeting, said that besides appointing senior counsel, the state has decided to make a representation to the Centre with request to fairly represent them in the Apex court. “It has been experienced that the Centre is sympathetic towards Karnataka during the hearing in the Apex court. The state government has decided to meet Centre for fair representation,” he said.

Talking about the status of the case, Jadhav said, “Karnataka has filed an application questioning maintainability of the suit claiming that only parliament has the right to decide demarcation of borders as per article 3. The commission appointed in September 2014 for evidence recording cannot hold hearing until the ruling on suit is given by the top court.”

Political analyst Prakash Akolkar said raking up the issue again is a political gimmick by the ruling parties ahead of Mumbai civic elections. “Border dispute is a dead issue and nothing is going to happen in it. Had parties like the BJP and Congress been firm to include the disputed areas in Maharashtra, they would have done it during their tenure when their governments were in power in both the states and the Centre. The Shiv Sena and NCP are trying to undrape the issue again to stir up Marathi pride card for political gain,” he said.

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