The Shiv Sena has raked up the Belgaum card to trump the proponents of a separate Vidarbha state out of Maharashtra. The saffron party, which is yet to recover from its successive defeats in the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections, has already reiterated that it will launch an agitation for an undivided Maharashtra. At the same time, the party dared the Congress-led governments at the Centre and the state to take concrete measures for the inclusion of Belgaum (currently in Karnataka) in Maharashtra. The demand is currently pending in the Supreme Court.
The Sena's move is quite obvious as it has been feeling 'isolated' on the separate Vidarbha issue (the Shiv Sena is the only major party in Maharashtra which has always been against a separate Vidarbha state). The party's executive president Uddhav Thackeray criticised the United Progressive Alliance government in particular for its inaction to resolve the long-pending Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue.
"The Centre, which has given its approval for the Telagana state, should show similar urgency and resolve to give its consent for the inclusion of the Belgaum-Karwar region in Maharashtra without further delays," he said.
Thackeray, in the same breath, reiterated his party's strong opposition to carve out a separate Vidarbha state. It was quite unwarranted especially in the golden jubilee year of the formation of Maharashtra, Thackeray noted.
Curiously, the Shiv Sena's two-decades-old electoral ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, favours the resolution of the Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue. However, at the national level, the party was not in a position to direct its Karnataka government, led by Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, to leave claim over Belgaum.
Political observers feel Maharashtra is not expected to witness violent or unusual agitations either on the issue of Belgaum or for the Vidarbha statehood issue. "All parties have extended their unequivocal support for the inclusion of the Belgaum-Karwar region in Maharashtra, but they lack political will. Similarly, for Vidarbha, the ruling Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have come out openly in its support, but they will prefer to wait and watch until some concrete steps are taken by the Andhra Pradesh government to form Telangana," they said.
A section of the pro-Belgaum lobby has already made a strong pitch for bringing 865 disputed villages including Belgaum under the Centre's rule until the Supreme Court's final verdict. A veteran Peasants and Workers Party leader ND Patil has time and again roared that Marathi people from the border region were not able to live with honour and dignity under Karnataka's rule.
On the other hand, a Congress minister recalled that the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute has been incorporated in Governor SC Jamir's address delivered on November 11 in the state legislature.
It would be quite interesting to see whether Shiv Sena takes a lead in bringing together all political parties, including the ruling Congress and NCP, on the Belgaum issue.