The Chief Minsters of Karnataka and Maharashtra have agreed not to press their claims in the decades-long state border dispute till the Supreme Court takes a call on the matter, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said today after a meeting with the two leaders. His meeting with Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was held amid a flare-up of the dispute that dates back to 1957.
Over the last weeks, trucks from Maharashtra have been attacked in Karnataka and buses of the southern state have been defaced by workers of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena.
“There has been an agreement that till the Supreme Court delivers its verdict, the state governments will not make any claim. The dispute should be resolved through talks. A committee will be formed with three ministers from each state,” Mr Shah told reporter after the meeting.
A senior police officer will be deputed to look into the law-and-order issue so travellers and traders from neither state face any problems. Police cases will be filed against those who fan discontent on social media, Mr Shah said.
He has also appealed to opposition parties in both states not to politicise issue and wait for the top court’s verdict.
Maharashtra had been upset over the inclusion of Marathi-speaking areas — including Belgavi, part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency — in Karnataka during the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka.
Karnataka maintains the demarcation is final and there can be no change.
While the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, calming down frayed tempers in the two BJP-ruled states — one of which will have its assembly elections next year — is expected to take deft handling.
In Karnataka, the ruling BJP has come under opposition pressure in the run-up to the election. Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah has accused the BJP of reaping “political benefits” out of the controversy. “Belagavi border issue, which could have been resolved through negotiations, is now allowed to grow so that BJP can take benefits,” the Congress leader said.
Karnataka has built a second assembly building in Belgavi to assert its claims. A legislature session is held once a year at the ‘Suvarna Vidhana Soudha’, modelled on the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of legislature in Bengaluru.
In Maharashtra, Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi has been vocal, with Nationalist Congress chief Sharad Pawar declaring that it is time to take a stand.
Eknath Shinde — who became chief minister with the BJP’s backing – has also pointed out that party founder Bal Thackeray supported “the demand to make Belgaum (Belagavi) a part of Maharashtra”.