“Respect feelings of Marathi-speaking linguistic minorities”

Raising the alleged discrimination of Marathi-speaking linguistic minorities residing in the border areas of Karnataka, the Shiv Sena on Monday urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to attend a function being held on October 11 to mark the opening of the Karnataka Vidhan Sabha building in Belgaum.

A delegation of Sena legislators met Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, urging him to request Mr. Mukherjee to cancel his Belgaum trip respecting the feelings of the Marathi-speaking linguistic minorities.

“By constructing the Assembly building in Belgaum, the Karnataka government is clearly trying to assert its authority over the Marathi-speaking minorities. So, we request the President to cancel his trip until the Supreme Court’s verdict on the 865 disputed border villages, including those in Belgaum,” senior Sena leader Subhash Desai told The Hindu.

Mr. Chavan assured the delegation that he would immediately communicate the matter to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

The Nationalist Congress Party too expressed its reservations, with Minister for Public Works Department and Tourism Chhagan Bhujbal saying it would be “inappropriate” for Mr. Mukherjee to accept an invitation to inaugurate the new Vidhan Bhavan complex.

In his letter to the President, Mr. Bhujbal pointed out that the inter-State border dispute had remained unresolved and “by virtue of its physical control over the disputed region,” the BJP-ruled Karnataka was bidding to strengthen its stranglehold by shifting part of its legislative work to Belgaum.

BJP ambivalent

However, the Shiv Sena’s chief ally in the State, the BJP, has been ambivalent on Mr. Mukherjee’s visit. “While our stand on the [Belgaum dispute] issue is clear, it is the Shiv Sena that supported Mr. Mukherjee” [in the presidential elections],” BJP State chief Sudhir Mungantiwar told The Hindu.

“Also, it is not for the Maharashtra BJP unit to decide where the President of India should go or not,” Mr. Mungantiwar said, adding: “The question here concerns the President’s itinerary whether he should go there or not. It is the President’s decision though we hope he does give a sympathetic hearing to the Sena’s request.”

The five decades-old, politically volatile Belgaum border dispute rocked the Maharashtra Assembly in July this year, with both Houses unanimously passing resolutions condemning Karnataka’s ‘heavy-handed’ move to supersede the Belgaum City Corporation.

The Belgaum City Council was last superseded on July 3 by the BJP-ruled government in Karnataka in less than seven months for allegedly violating provisions of the Karnataka Municipal Act, 1976.