Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s intervention in resolving the current situation arising out of the border row with Karnataka as the Opposition called for an all-party meeting on the matter and targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Centre over the emotive issue.
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said he spoke to Shah and apprised him about developments related to the boundary dispute with Karnataka over the last one week, a period marked by war of words between leaders of the two neighbouring states, attacks on vehicles and protests by activists.
A statement from Fadnavis’s office said Shah patiently heard the Deputy Chief Minister’s views on Maharashtra’s stand on the decades-old boundary dispute which has flared up in the last few days, leading to tension in border areas.
Fadnavis also apprised Shah about his telephone conversation with Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday.
The deputy CM spoke to Bommai following attacks on vehicles from Maharashtra entering Karnataka in the adjoining state’s border district of Belagavi.
The border dispute between the two states spilled onto roads on Tuesday with stones being hurled at vehicles entering Karnataka from the Maharashtra side near a toll booth at Hirebaugwadi in Belagavi district. Similarly, at least four buses from Karnataka were defaced in Pune district allegedly by activists of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Fadnavis said he has sought Union Home Minister Shah’s intervention in the matter.
“Vandalism of vehicles from Maharashtra is not good. Such a situation between two states is not good. I apprised him (Shah) of what I spoke to the Karnataka CM yesterday and urged that he, too, should speak to Bommai. Shah said he will look into the matter,” said the Deputy Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, talking to reporters separately, said he spoke to his Karnataka counterpart Bommai over the phone on Tuesday night and demanded strict action against those who vandalised vehicles bound for the adjoining state.
“Till the matter (border dispute) is in the Supreme Court, no law and order issue should be created which harms people from both states. (During telephonic talk) Bommai agreed to take action against perpetrators,” said Shinde.
The Maharashtra CM said he also apprised Shah about the situation arising out of the decades-old boundary dispute.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties continued to target the Shinde-BJP government over the border issue and prevailing tension in border areas.
The Congress alleged the border dispute with Karnataka is being stoked by the BJP under a conspiracy to “divide” Maharashtra and demanded Chief Minister Shinde convene an all-party meeting to explain the government’s stand.
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole alleged the Karnataka Chief Minister was working on the instructions of the central government and select industrialists.
“The BJP is stoking the border dispute with Karnataka as part of a conspiracy to divide Maharashtra,” Patole alleged.
He dubbed the Shinde-led regime as the “worst” government in the history of Maharashtra.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka is deliberately vitiating the environment in border areas and Marathi-speaking people are being beaten up and their property is damaged.
“The people of Maharashtra will not tolerate the bullying by Karnataka. Maharashtra has taken a stand of observing restraint, but if we lose our restraint, Karnataka and the Central government will have to bear the consequences,” Patole warned while talking to reporters.
“Karnataka Chief Minister Bommai is making inflammatory statements every day but there is no response from the Maharashtra government. The situation is such that people are questioning whether there is a government in Maharashtra or not,” he said.
Patole said the “attacks” by Karnataka in the border areas were a serious matter.
Another senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat asked the Shinde-BJP government to clarify its position on the border issue.
“Trucks, buses and vehicles are being vandalized in Karnataka. Maharashtra will not tolerate these kinds of attacks from Karnataka,” said the former minister.
Thorat sought to know if Karnataka, also ruled by the BJP, is receiving any instructions from the Centre over the border issue.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader and MP Sanjay Raut demanded that Belagavi be declared a Union Territory and claimed incidents of violence in the border district cannot take place without “Delhi’s support”.
He also hit out at Maharashtra Chief Minister Shinde, saying the state government appeared weak and helpless to counter such attacks.
Hitting back, Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Chandrashekhar Bawankule asked the Rajya Sabha member to refrain from making “baseless and provocative comments”.
Talking to reporters, Raut said Belagavi and surrounding Marathi-speaking areas along the Karnataka-Maharashtra border be declared a Union Territory.
“If Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has guts, he should demand the disputed areas be declared as a Union Territory immediately,” he said.
Taking a dig at Maharashtra ministers Shambhuraj Desai and Chandrakant Patil for “backing out” from visiting Belagavi on Tuesday, Raut said, “We will give them protection and march with them”.
Maharashtra’s state-run bus operator said it has suspended 382 services to Karnataka, of the total 1,156 services operated by it daily to the neighbouring state.
The decision of partial suspension of bus services to Karnataka was taken following the instructions from the local police and the district administration, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) said in a statement.
The border issue dates back to 1957 when states were reorganized on linguistic lines.
Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, as it has a sizable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of the southern state.
Karnataka, however, considers the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report as final.
In a related development, the North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) on Wednesday suspended its services to Maharashtra after reports emerged of some buses being defaced and damaged in the regions bordering Belagavi district.
The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike again held agitations in the border regions following the defacement of buses.
In Bengaluru, Karnataka minister Govind Karjol ruled out the possibility of calling an all-party meeting at present to discuss the border dispute with Maharashtra and asserted the state government was handling the case legally.