The Maharashtra-Karnataka border cauldron was kept boiling with Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut on Wednesday censuring Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s alleged “failure” to take any stance on Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s continuing “verbal aggression”, remarking that the opposition could enter Karnataka in the manner in which China has entered Indian territory.
“The BJP-led Central government in Delhi keeps saying that it will not cede an inch of land to China. But China keeps entering Indian territory. Like China, even we will enter the [disputed] border areas of Karnataka…we do not need anyone’s permission. But this is a united country and we want to keep the peace. Karnataka’s CM is deliberately stoking the fumes of this controversy because he is aware that Maharashtra has an extremely weak government,” alleged Mr. Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP.
His remarks came in the wake of the Bommai government’s stance to pass a resolution in the Karnataka Legislature “that not even an inch of land” would be given to the neighbouring State of Maharashtra.
Mr. Raut further questioned whether Delhi had silenced the lips of both Chief Minister Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had recently met with Home Minister Amit Shah after the latter sought to intervene in the ongoing dispute.
“What is your [Shinde-Fadnavis’] compulsion that you cannot speak? Has Delhi given you an injection that you people should not speak on this matter? Mr. Bommai says he will not give an inch of land [alluding to Belagavi which has a significant Marathi-speaking populace]? Will our CM give him a suitable answer?” Mr. Raut said, taunting Mr. Shinde.
He said if the ruling dispensation refused to speak on the border issue, then there were enough and more leaders and people in Maharashtra who were more than willing to stage protest rallies in the border districts of Belagavi — a focal point in the border row that has been festering since 1956.
Mr. Raut said that despite the border issue being nearly 70 years old, the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka used to speak to each with respect in the past.
“Now, each morning, Bommai insults Maharashtra, and our weak CM refuses to give him a befitting reply. Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis are claiming to have swept the Gram Panchayat elections and proclaiming that the rural populace of Maharashtra has reposed trust in them, and here entire villages [in Maharashtra] are being claimed by Karnataka,” Mr. Raut said, alluding to Mr. Bommai’s previous claims that villages in Sangli Jat tehsil and Solapur and Akkalkot ought to be in Karnataka.
Mr. Raut said that regardless of who occupied the CM’s post, all parties were united on this issue.
“Be it Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar or [Congress leader] Nana Patole — all opposition leaders are willing to stand firmly behind you [Mr. Shinde] on this issue. But here you are not ready to speak on the issue at all. Despite meeting Amit Shah, Bommai is carrying on making provocative remarks,” the Thackeray camp leader said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Minister and Eknath Shinde faction leader Shambhuraj Desai warned that if Mr. Bommai did not refrain from making “irresponsible statements”, then Maharashtra would have to rethink about supplying water from its dams to the neighbouring State.
“The Karnataka Legislature has reiterated the State’s stand that the border issue is a settled one, and not an inch of land will be given to Maharashtra. When the case is sub judice, a Chief Minister should not use threatening language. Even Maharashtra can reply in kind,” Mr. Desai said, speaking at the Vidhan Bhavan complex in Nagpur.
He warned that Mr. Bommai ought to keep in mind that Karnataka is dependent on water supply from the Koyna and Krishna dams (in Maharashtra) during the dry season of March and April.
“If Karnataka does not stop (making such statements), then Maharashtra will have to rethink over the water being supplied to the neighbouring State,” said Mr. Desai, who has been appointed as one of the nodal Ministers by the Maharashtra Government to coordinate with the legal team on the border problem.