Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s remarks on Tuesday marking the occasion of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s death anniversary have sparked a fresh war of words with leaders of neighbouring Karnataka. The two states have been at loggerheads for decades over areas along their border in districts like Belagavi, Karwar, and Nipani.
Paying tributes to the late Maratha leader, Mr Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party evoked Mr Thackeray’s “dream” of “incorporating Belgaum (Belagavi), Karwar, and Nipani”, areas in Karnataka with considerable Marathi-speaking population, into Maharashtra. “Let’s resolve to fulfil Balasaheb’s dream,” he said in his tribute, according to a PTI report.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was quick to criticise Mr Pawar’s remarks.
“I condemn the comments made by Maharashtra Deputy CM, Ajit Pawar. The world knows that the decisions in the Mahajan Commission report were final…To fan the flames at a time like this is wrong,” Mr Yediyurappa told reporters today ahead of a cabinet meeting.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, too, rejected any such claims of Maharashtra.
“We have faith in the Mahajan report that said Belagavi is part of Karnataka. We condemn what Ajit Pawar is saying. We will definitely write a letter on this,” Mr Savadi said today.
Both the Karnataka Chief Minister and his deputy referred to the one-man commission formed in 1966 under Meher Chand Mahajan, a former Supreme Court judge, to look into the dispute between the two states.
In its report submitted to Parliament in 1972, the Mahajan Commission rejected Maharashtra’s claim to Belgaum (now Belagavi), while recommending transfer of some 250-260 villages each between the two states. While Karnataka agreed to comply with the report, Maharashtra refused.
The border row has, thus, festered over the decades.
The Karnataka legislature is now sometimes held in Belagavi, close to the Maharashtra border. This winter session, however, would be held in Bengaluru’s Vidhana Soudha, the chief minister has said.