Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai ‘territorial claims’ on Maharashtra’s Sangli and Solapur districts was part of “a conspiracy” to divert the public’s ire against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the objectionable remarks made against Chhatrapati Shivaji by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and BJP MP Sudhanshu Trivedi, claimed Uddhav Thackeray-led led Shiv Sena faction MP Sanjay Raut on Friday.
Alleging “a big conspiracy” behind Mr. Bommai’s sudden ‘attack’ on the Maharashtra government, Mr. Raut said: “There is a wave of anger among Maharashtra’s public over the insulting remarks and mudslinging against Chhatrapati Shivaji done through Governor Koshyari and Sudhanshu Trivedi. In order to divert attention and make the public forget this insult, Bommai has been pushed forward to stake claim on territory in Maharashtra and re-ignite the border dispute.”
Earlier this week, the Karnataka CM had stirred the political cauldron by remarking that his BJP government seriously considering” a resolution to include Jat taluk in western Maharashtra’s Sangli district. After an irate reaction by the opposition ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ parties (of the Thackeray-led Sena faction, the NCP and the Congress), Maharashtra Deputy CM and State BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said there was no question of the state ceding an inch of land to Karnataka.
Following this, Mr. Bommai upped the ante by stating that Solapur city and Akkalkot (in Solapur district) ought to part of Karnataka as well.
Commenting on Mr. Bommai’s ‘brinksmanship’, Mr. Raut said it was not everyday that a BJP CM of a state attacked the CM or Deputy CM of a neighbouring BJP-ruled State.
“The BJP is a disciplined party. One never finds [Uttar Pradesh CM] Yogi Adityanath attacking his party colleague and Gujarat counterpart or the latter lashing out at the Karnataka CM in this manner. So, this is a pre-decided script written for the Karnataka CM in order to lessen the impact of prevailing public anger against the BJP in Maharashtra for comments made by Mr. Koshyari and Mr. Trivedi,” claimed Mr. Raut.
While the Governor is facing the opprobrium from the opposition MVA parties for recently calling the 17th century Maratha king “an icon for older times” (hinting that Shivaji’s ideals were outmoded), Mr. Trivedi had remarked during a TV debate that Chhatrapati Shivaji had ‘apologised’ to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb no less than five times.
In a thinly veiled jibe at the BJP-ruled Centre, the Thackeray faction MP said “everyone knew whose handiwork” it was [‘making’ Mr. Bommai lay territorial claims on parts of Maharashtra].
“Who else could have written such a script? Each time, the ruling government in Maharashtra or the Governor makes a gaffe, then something is done to divert attention from it… When Mr. Koshyari had recently insulted the Marathi speaking-populace by praising the economic acumen of Gujarati people, then to preclude the public outcry that would have followed, I was arrested on trumped-up charges,” alleged Mr. Raut, referring to his 100-day incarceration over a money laundering charge.
Reiterating that the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis was “weak”, Mr. Raut said that not an inch of the State’s territory would be ceded to Karnataka and that the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray was ready to do battle with the Karnataka government over the border issue.
The long-standing Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute over the status of Belagavi district has witnessed a continual reigniting of tensions in the past years.
In 2019, when the MVA was in power, then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had referred to Belagavi (in Karnataka) and its nearby areas where people chiefly speak Marathi as ‘Karnataka occupied Maharashtra’, drawing the ire of Kannada politicians.
Mr. Thackeray had said he was committed towards incorporating into Maharashtra those areas of Karnataka (especially Belagavi district) where the Marathi-speaking populace were in the majority in order to fully realize the ideal ‘Sanyukt Maharashtra’ (united Maharashtra).
At the time, Mr. Thackeray had also appointed then ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and (current CM) Eknath Shinde as ‘co-ordinators’ to oversee his government’s efforts to expedite the boundary dispute, which has been festering for more than 60 years.
Maharashtra claims certain areas, including Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani which are part of Karnataka, contending that the majority of population in these areas is Marathi- speaking.
The dispute has been long-pending in the Supreme Court.
While Belgaum (as Belagavi was known till recently) was formerly part of the Bombay State, it was merged with the Mysore State (later Karnataka) at the time of the reorganisation of States in 1956.