The BJP faces a tricky situation as the decades-old border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra, both ruled by the party now, is back under the spotlight.
As both state governments try to pander to regional sentiments, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai have exchanged strong words on the sensitive political issue.
Mr Fadnavis yesterday said no village of Maharashtra has sought a merger with Karnataka recently, and added that there is no question of any border village “going anywhere”. In a sharp retort, Mr Bommai termed the Maharashtra BJP leader’s remark “provocative” and said “his dream will never come true”.
He added that Karnataka’s demand is that areas such as Maharashtra’s Solapur, which have a high number of Kannada speakers, should be made part of Karnataka.
Earlier, Mr Bommai had claimed that some village panchayats in Maharashtra’s Sangli district had passed a resolution in the past, seeking a merger with Karnataka when they were facing a water crisis. The Karnataka government had planned schemes to help them and his government was seriously considering their merger demand, he said.
Responding to questions on the Karnataka Chief Minister’s remarks, Mr Fadnavis said these villages had passed a resolution on water crisis back in 2012, but there have been no recent developments.
The BJP leader said that the previous Maharashtra government under him had entered into an agreement with Karnataka to sort out the issue. A water supply scheme was also chalked out for these villages, he said. “We are now going to approve that scheme. Perhaps because of Covid, the previous (Uddhav Thackeray-led) government could not approve it,” Mr Fadnavis added.
The BJP returned to power in June along with a Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde — now Chief Minister — that rebelled against Thackeray’s leadership over his alliance with the Congress and the Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
While Karnataka claims Kannada-speaking areas close to the state border, Maharashtra has been pushing for a resolution to the dispute over Belgaum district — also called Belagavi — and other Marathi majority areas in Karnataka.
The matter reached the Supreme Court in 2004 when the then Maharashtra government claimed Belagavi city and 865 villages. The case is pending.
Recently, a 19-member committee comprising leaders from all Maharashtra parties met and decided to request the Supreme Court to speed up the hearing. The Eknath Shinde-led government also formed a committee with two senior ministers to monitor the issue.
The Karnataka Chief Minister has said that the state government has formed a formidable legal team to deal with the border dispute when it comes up in the Supreme Court.