A statement from Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday that his government was committed to incorporating "Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking and cultural areas" has triggered a storm in Karnataka.
Using the Chief Minister's Office handle, Uddhav had declared, "Bringing Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking and cultural areas in Maharashtra will be the true tribute to those who accepted martyrdom in the boundary battle. We are united and committed towards it. Respects to the martyrs with this promise," the CMO tweeted.
The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti—a regional organisation fighting for the merger of Belgaum (known as Belagavi in Karnataka)| and some other border areas with Maharashtra—observes January 17 as 'martyrs day' for those who laid down their lives for the cause in 1956.
Maharashtra claims certain areas, including Belgaum, Karwar and Nippani, which are part of Karnataka, contending that the majority of population in these areas is Marathi-speaking. The dispute between the two states over Belgaum and other border areas is pending before the Supreme Court for many years.
Responding to the statement from Uddhav, Karnataka's Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar, a BJP member, told PTI on Sunday, "The chief minister of Maharashtra should concentrate on preventing COVID, on developmental activities and other things. He need not go back to things already well settled. I think it is only to whip up passions and whipping up passions will not pay dividends these days." Kumar termed the statement from Uddhav as "sheer political one upmanship".
More worryingly for Uddhav and his coalition government, Siddaramaiah, Congress leader and former chief minister of Karnataka, described the statement as "stupid". The Congress is a constituent of the coalition government in Maharashtra.
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Siddaramaiah tweeted on Monday, "I strongly condemn the statement made by @CMOMaharashtra Uddhav Thackeray about our Belagavi. Belagavi is an integral part of Karnataka. Don't try to instigate us by bringing up the issue which is already resolved. Mahajan report is final with respect to Belagavi border issue. Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, don't try to politicize the issue which is already decided. You are not just a Shiv Sena activist. Don't forget that you are also a responsible Chief Minister."
Siddaramaiah added, "We will never compromise or politicize on matters related to land-water-language of Karnataka. Protecting our State is our responsibility. @CMofKarnataka should officially give a befitting response to the stupid comments made by Uddhav Thackeray."