Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut Sunday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who, he said, were ignoring the aspirations of the people of Belagavi region of Karnataka who have been demanding to be included in Maharashtra for seven decades.
The Rajya Sabha member also attacked Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, saying he preferred to keep mum even when his Karnataka counterpart Basavaraj Bommai was laying claim to his state’s villages.
Raut’s comments came in the backdrop of the renewed unrest in Belagavi after Maharashtra made fresh claims on the state’s Marathi-speaking areas, including Belagavi.
“They are talking of bringing Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) within our fold because the people desire so. But the people of Belagavi have been demanding their inclusion within Maharashtra for 70 years. They desire to be part of Maharashtra. If people’s wish as in the case of Pak-occupied Kashmir is the yardstick, then it should also be applied to Belagavi,” Raut told The Indian Express in response to his column, Rokhthok, published in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
Subscriber Only Stories
In his weekly column, Raut wrote the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute has been raging for 70 years and “the issue has been kept hanging.” “The issue pertains to the self-respect of Maharashtra while it is a commercial one for Karnataka,” he said.
Criticising Modi in the column, Raut wrote, “The Prime Minister intervenes in the Ukraine-Russia war but is silent on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute. This is not a sign of a good politician.” He said the Centre has never intervened in the issue which has been pending for 70 years and never held any discussion with the chief ministers of the two states.
When it comes to international border disputes with Pakistan, China, and Myanmar, Raut said talks are held with these countries. “But when it comes to internal border disputes, no one is ready to hold the discussion,” he said. Raut said the BJP is the ruling party at the Centre and also in both Maharashtra and Karnataka. “Since they have a government in all the three places, they should at least take the decision of making Belgaum a Union Territory,” he said.
During his daily press conference in Mumbai Sunday, Raut said Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a 15-minute meeting and appealed to maintain the status quo. He was referring to the recent meeting Shah held with the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka in New Delhi. “The intervention of the home minister in the border dispute was a meaningless exercise. When an intervention is done, there is some decision. In this case, the home minister called for maintaining the status quo. But the status quo already exists as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. Maharashtra is not a fool, this is not a state with a ‘nano’ brain. Don’t teach the Shiv Sena what the status quo is.”
Raut said if the Centre wants the status quo then it will have to take certain steps. “The status quo situation will emerge when the saffron flag which was pulled down from Belgaum municipal corporation is restored to its original place. It is Shivrai’s (Shivaji Maharaj’s) saffron flag which was pulled down by the Karnataka government. And then they should withdraw the false cases filed against Marathi-speaking people. Only then, we will call this a status quo situation,” he said.
In his column, Raut also said Karnataka has repeatedly tried to change the “status quo” position. “After the issue went to the Supreme Court, Karnataka declared Belgaum as the second capital of the state and constructed a new legislative assembly building. The name of Belgaum was changed to Belagavi. The saffron flag was pulled down from Belgaum civic body. All this is very serious. This was against the court’s ruling for maintaining the status quo,” he said.
Raut said the Ram Temple issue in Ayodhya was resolved through continuous hearings in the Supreme Court. “Similarly, why can’t the Maharashtra-Karnataka be resolved through continuous hearings in the Supreme Court?” he asked in the column.
Suggesting that Parliament should take up the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, Raut said in the column, “The issue went to the Supreme Court because Parliament refused to take a decision. It is hoped that the court will redirect Parliament to take a decision. Instead of waiting for the court decision, Parliament should resolve this issue immediately through discussion. There will be no objection to it.”
Chief Minister Shinde, he said, preferred to keep mum when Bommai was laying claims to the villages in Maharashtra’s Solapur and Sangli. “Has the chief minister tried to understand the problem of the people of Belagavi? There should have been a discussion on five key issues related to the border dispute but the chief minister returned to Mumbai after giving his approval to the appeal to maintain the status quo,” he said.