The Shiv Sena had gone on the defensive after a 'successful' visit to Mumbai by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and high drama over the release of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer My Name Is Khan -- both in February. Maharashtra's main Opposition party is now back in action, alleging that Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka's Belgaum district, which shares a border with Maharashta, are being suppressed by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in that state. Belgaum district is Marathi-dominated.
The trigger was the election of a Kannadiga as the mayor of the Belgaum Municipal Corporation, for the first time. The Sena was furious over the rejection of nominations of other corporators in the mayoral poll, which paved way for the election of Ningappa Nirwani. The party, which raked up the issue in and outside the state legislature, on Friday held demonstrations against Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa during his visit to Mumbai. Yeddyurappa has assured the Sena delegation on holding an all-party meeting soon. The Shiv Sena and the BJP, which have been electoral allies for over two decades, also form the Opposition alliance in Maharashtra.
The Sena has dared the BJP to clear its stand on the Belgaum issue. It also threatened to launch an agitation soon in protest against the 'anti-Marathi' stand by the BJP government in Karnataka.
"The Karnataka government should immediately stop anti-Marathi moves in Belgaum. The Shiv Sena has been at the forefront with a demand that Belgaum should be part of Maharashtra. The party will continue to pursue it and will also do everything to protect the interests of the Marathi-speaking population there," said Sena leader Subhash Desai.
Meanwhile, the Sena put the ball in BJP national president Nitin Gadkari's court over the Belgaum issue. The Sena is banking upon Gadkari to toe its line, as the latter is also a Marathi. However, BJP insiders said since the party has a national presence, it is not easy for it to take a firm step in this regard.
Marathi-speaking people on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border should get justice, which has been denied to them under consecutive Congress governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra and Karnataka, a state BJP leader said. Further, the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance in the state has also criticised the manner in which the mayoral election took place in Belgaum. The two parties have said the Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue remains unsettled. The state government has filed a special leave petition on the issue in the Supreme Court.