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‘Strong Enough to Defend Our Borders’: Maha, K’taka Gear Up for Legal Battle Over Decades-old Dispute

The Maharashtra-Karnataka border row is back in headlines again with both states making preparations to pursue a legal battle over the decades-old dispute. Days after Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde said he would protect the interest of the Marathi-speaking population residing in the border areas in Karnataka, CM Basavaraj Bommai said he is “seriously considering” laying a claim on the Jath taluk in neighbouring Maharashtra.

Shinde has also appointed cabinet ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai to coordinate with a legal team regarding the court case on the issue. On the other hand, Bommai said that Karnataka is contemplating providing grants to Kannada-medium schools in Maharashtra and provide pension to Kannadiga freedom fighters and people who have fought for unification of Karnataka and are currently residing in the Maharashtra.

Bommai told reporters on Monday that the state has formed a team of senior advocates to fight the case in the Apex court when it comes up for hearing. The team includes former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, Shyam Diwan, former Karnataka advocate general Uday Holla and Maruti Jirale.

“The team has made all preparations on how to contest the case (in the Supreme Court). Tomorrow, I will also have a video conference with these lawyers,” Bommai said, claiming that the maintainability of the case has not yet been decided, let alone the main petition.

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The CM said that under Article 3 of the Constitution, the State Reorganisation Act was passed. After the reorganisation of states, there is no instance of any review plea ever considered in the country, he added.

Bommai alleged that the Maharashtra politics was dependent only on border rows. “What has happened in Maharashtra is that the border dispute itself has become a political object. Irrespective of the party affiliation, all the political parties for their political reasons raise the issue. But they will never succeed.”

Since its inception in 1960, Maharashtra has been entangled in a dispute with Karnataka over the status of Belgaum (also called Belagavi) district and 80 other Marathi speaking villages, which are in the control of the southern state.

The Karnataka CM stressed that the state government is strong enough to protect its borders. “Moreover, when it comes to the Kannada state, language and water, we all fight unitedly. In the coming days as well, we will fight together,” Bommai said.

He said he will write to the Leader of Opposition and heads of other political parties on this issue.

Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah too had cautioned the state government to wake up to the Maharashtra government’s move.

“Maharashtra government has taken special interest in Belagavi border issue. @BJP4Karnataka should immediately wake up & call for an all-party meeting to discuss the way forward,” the Congress stalwart tweeted.