The Karnataka-Maharashtra border quarrel is a perpetual issue that surfaces almost every year, creating an ambiance of sharp rhetoric and sub-nationalism on both sides. There is a feeling in many quarters that the decades-old issue will not be resolved outside of court and that it is all politics that keeps the pot boiling.
If there is no other trigger, the dispute at least crops up during December each year, when the border district of Belagavi, which Maharashtra stakes claims on, hosts the winter session of Karnataka legislature at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha.
This time, the dispute has come to the forefront slightly earlier, with the issue being raked up ahead of hearing on the border issue in the Supreme Court on a suit filed by Maharashtra.
Some political observers believe that the upcoming Assembly polls in Karnataka and the political dynamics in Maharashtra have added an extra twist to it this time.
The border dispute dates back to 1957, after reorganizing states on linguistic lines.
Maharashtra laid claim to BelagavI, part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, as it has a sizeable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages, which are currently part of Karnataka.
Karnataka maintains that the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report is final.
Along with the hearing in the Supreme Court, the issue also flared up this time with Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai asserting that the Karnataka government was “seriously” laying claim to Jath taluk in Maharashtra, evoking a strong response. He subsequently also claimed that Solapur and Akkalkot regions in Maharashtra belonged to Karnataka.
This statement was primarily seen as the state’s response to Maharashtra after its government appointed two ministers, Chandrakant Patil, and Shambhuraj Desai – to track the court case on the border dispute and that state’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ statement claiming Karnataka’s Marathi-speaking villages, including Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani.
While some political functionaries are of the view that the border dispute would not have any direct consequences electorally, there is also a view that BJP may face some heat from opposition outfits, depending on how it handles the issue, with the party having the government in both the states and also at the Centre.
On his part, BJP State General Secretary N Ravi Kumar feels that there won’t be any political or electoral implications of the border issue.
Further, hitting out at the Congress and other opponents for targeting the BJP government, accusing it of not resolving the issue despite the party being in power in Maharashtra, he said, “this is not a party issue. This is the issue of state, its people, land, and water. Together we should look for a peaceful solution.” There is also an opinion that internal politics in Maharashtra is one of the significant factors behind the border issue cropping up this time.
According to Congress MLC Nagaraj Yadav, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s breakaway faction of Shiv Sena wants to make inroads in Belagavi by raking up the border issue and strengthening MES. Still, they will not be successful as the Marathi outfit is a divided house and will make no impact anymore.
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