The long-simmering tensions over the Belgaum issue seem to have risen again, with Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar exchanging words and a 'bandh' by some pro-Kannada outfits on the horizon.
On November 18, Yediyurappa condemned Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar's statement raking up the Belagavi border issue and termed it as an attempt to "incite fire".
He was responding to Pawar's statement regarding Maharashtra's all-round growth and incorporating Belgaum (Belagavi), Karwar and Nipani --areas of Karnataka which have substantial Marathi-speaking population -- were dreams of later Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
"Let's resolve to fulfil Balasaheb's dream," he said in his message, paying tributes to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray on his eighth death anniversary on November 17.
"... I condemn it. They have to stop making such statements in the future," Yediyurappa said.
What is the Belagavi issue all about?
Karnataka and Maharashtra have been at loggerheads for decades over the border issue. Belagavi, which has a sizeable Marathi population, is claimed by Maharashtra.
The district was a part of the Bombay Presidency, and, after Independence, the Belgaum Municipality had reportedly requested that it should be included in the then proposed Samyukta Maharashtra state, to be carved out for Marathi-speaking population.
However, as per the State Reorganisation Act of 1956, Belgaum was included in Mysore state (present-day Karnataka). That, however, was reportedly done on the basis of administrative lines, though reports claim that Belgaum has majority Marathi-speaking population which wanted to go with Maharashtra.
The dispute has been on ever since. The MES, which had its Mayor in the Belgaum City Corporation in 2005, had even passed a controversial resolution demanding merger of the state's Marathi-speaking areas with Maharashtra.
Why has it been raked up again?
There are two immediate--- and interconnected--- reasons: the Karnataka government's decision to set up the Maratha Development Board which came ahead of the announcement of bypolls to the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency, as well as Basavakalyan and Maski assembly constituencies, which have a sizeable Marathi-speaking population.
Moreover, some pro-Kannada outfits have announced a bandh on December 5 against the decision to set up the Maratha Development Board.
Responding to the "forced bandh" call, Yediyurappa warned of action and said that the board has been set up for the welfare of Maratha communities in the state.
"Marathas are also Hindu followers," the chief minister said.