Uddhav Thackeray Should Move On Because Belagavi Certainly Has
Uddhav Thackeray wants to include the ‘Marathi-speaking regions’ of Karnataka in his state.
Here’s why Thackeray’s demand may not find resonance in those very Marathi-speaking areas.
The by-polls to the Lok Sabha seat in Belagavi, necessitated by the death of former Union minister Suresh Angadi, as well as the impending taluk and zilla panchayat elections seem to have triggered the language issue yet again.
On a day that saw Union Home Minister Amit Shah address a rally in Belagavi asking the region to ensure the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweeps the taluk and zilla panchayat polls, Maharashtra's Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted, pledging to incorporate “Karnataka occupied Marathi speaking regions” back into the state as a tribute to those who laid their lives in the agitation for their inclusion earlier.
While Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa tweeted, condemning Thackeray's statement, he also asked him to "show his commitment and respect to the principles of federalism in letter and spirit".
Soon after, though, Eknath Shinde, Maharashtra's Health Minister whom Thackeray appointed to oversee the ‘border issue’, also tweeted in support of his chief minister.
This, when the issue is still pending before the Supreme Court of India after Maharashtra filed a suit rejecting the recommendations of the Mahajan Commission report of 1967.
However, sadly, all of this may no longer matter to the region that is now on the fast track to development.
Ignored by successive governments for years, the region had been a fertile ground for a political tug of war across the state border, but trying the same antics now will only get bad media for Thackeray and the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) which has lost steam in the region.
Here's why Thackeray's statement on the occasion of what the MES celebrates as 'martyrs' day' is futile.
Belagavi and the surrounding villages in the border regions, that have been the bone of contention between Karnataka and Maharashtra, are witnessing transformational development with a massive boost to industry, infrastructure and employment opportunities.
The region has in the last two years and under the present government seen both greater representation in the cabinet, greater focus as far as industry investment is concerned, and is also the hub of infrastructure development on the connectivity front.
Mumbai-Karnataka region comprises of Belagavi, Hubballi-Dharwad, Gadag, Vijayapura and Bagalakote.
This along with Hyderabad Karnataka, which has now been renamed Kalyana Karnataka, invited anger for being ignored and receiving only token representation as well as funds by successive governments.
The H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government too in 2018 was accused of bias towards the Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya, Ramanagara, Old Mysuru region in it budgetary allocation, as a result of which demand for a separate North Karnataka too raised its ugly head.
But the current government has ensured it's balancing the geographic imbalance of power and resources on both fronts.
Belagavi has the highest representation after Bengaluru in the cabinet. The key player of the defection episode and a powerful leader from the region, Industry Minister Jagadeesh Shettar, holds an important portfolio. He has driven crucial investments to the region and the Centre too is launching an array of joint infra-development projects for the region.
Also on the political front, the MES, formed to fight for the 'Marathi' cause, has lost its sheen. This samiti had a political grip over the region in the days after the formation of the state in the 1950s.
The younger generation no longer identifies with the language cause, the internal issues and factionalism, leaving the samiti diluted. With the rise of Hindutva and the right wing ideology in the region, many of its leaders have jumped fence to join the BJP.
The MES is seen making noise only when elections are around. It has lost its leaders to the BJP gradually, the latest being one of its tallest leaders Arvind Patil. He was backed by the BJP to contest the elections to the District Central Cooperative Bank in November 2020.
Karnataka also recently initiated the setting up of a Maratha Development Authority with a corpus fund of Rs 50 crore for the welfare of the Marathas, especially in the border districts.
In all, be it the building and scaling up of the Belagavi airport which has also been selected for a flying school, the highway infrastructure upgrade, the enhanced rail connectivity between capital city Bengaluru and the state's second capital, it is clear that Belagavi has moved on.
It would be better if Uddhav Thackeray does too.
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