Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday blamed Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai for the “worrisome” situation in the border areas with Maharashtra and warned the state's "patience" will take a different turn if attacks on vehicles entering the southern state from Maharashtra are not stopped in 24 hours.
He said the Karnataka government and the Centre will be responsible if the law and order deteriorates.
Pawar also said the time has come to take a stand in view of the situation prevailing in the areas on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border.
“Maharashtra has taken a stand of observing patience and it is still ready to do that. But even that has a limit. In 24 hours, if the attacks on vehicles are not stopped then this patience will take a different path and the responsibility will be completely on the Karnataka chief minister and the Karnataka government," Pawar told reporters.
Amid a raging border row between the two states, a video showed some people throwing stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from the Maharashtra side near a toll booth at Hirebaugwadi in Belagavi district of the adjoining state.
Pawar also referred to statements made by Bommai and said conscious attempts were being made by the Karnataka CM for the last few weeks to take the situation in a different direction.
Pawar, a former state chief minister, also slammed the Centre and the Eknath Shinde-BJP government in Maharashtra for being “mute spectators”.
"Time has come to take a stand after seeing what is happening in border areas. The situation there is worrisome," said the Nationalist Congress Party chief, whose party was part of the previous Uddhav Thackeray- led Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
The former Union minister said the Centre cannot be a “mute spectator” if the law and order situation deteriorates.
Pawar said MPs from Maharashtra will meet Union Home minister Amit Shah to ensure that normalcy is restored.
“…But Karnataka CM gives provocative statements, and if attacks by his associates continue then it is a jolt for the unity of the government. If someone takes law and order in their hands, then the responsibility is with the Karnataka government and Centre,” he said.
Bommai recently sought a merger of "Kannada-speaking" areas in Maharashtra's Akkalkot and Solapur and had also said some villages in Jat taluka in Sangli district wanted to join the southern state.
Belagavi district administration in Karnataka on Monday issued orders barring entry of the two Maharashtra ministers and leaders to the city. Prohibitory orders were issued under section 144 of CrPC, barring their entry, besides that of an MP, who all are members of the Maharashtra High Power Committee on the Border Dispute, an official had said.
Pawar said he was being contacted by Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) activists from Belagavi complaining the police are being stationed outside their office and intensified "nakabandi" on roads connecting Maharashtra.
Maharashtra ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, appointed for coordinating the state's border dispute with Karnataka, were earlier scheduled to meet activists of MES in Belagavi on Tuesday and hold talks on the decades-old border issue.
A day earlier, Bommai said he would ask his Maharashtra counterpart Eknath Shinde not to send his cabinet colleagues to Belagavi as their visit may disrupt the law and order situation in the border district.
Asserting the border dispute with Maharashtra is settled, Bommai said he had already instructed the officials concerned regarding the measures to be taken in case the ministers go ahead with the visit, and that the government will not hesitate to take any legal action.
Pawar said he and his associates, an apparent reference to the constituents of Maha Vikas Aghadi, will visit Belagavi to give confidence to MES activists.
Queried on some villages in Maharashtra along the borders of Karnataka and Gujarat seeking to join these states, Pawar said, “What happened on the borders of Gujarat, Solapur, or Jat? How did all these arise so suddenly?
Some villages in north Maharashtra's Nashik district have demanded their inclusion in Gujarat claiming they are facing apathy and a lack of development.
“I was the guardian minister of Solapur for seven-eight times and I know Solapur thoroughly. No one raised this issue during my tenure. Be it Jat (in Sangli bordering Karnataka), or on the Gujarat border. Nobody had raised these issues. Someone is trying to provoke (the situation) and unfortunately the state government has taken the role of a spectator,” the NCP chief said.
Last week, Chandrakant Patil had spoken about demand from MES, an organisation fighting for the merger of Belagavi and some other border areas with Maharashtra, to hold discussions with volunteers on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue.
The border issue dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. The dispute is pending before the Supreme Court.