Political outfit Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), which derives its strength from Marathas living in large numbers in the Belagavi region, is all set to make a comeback in the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka, according to political observers.
The border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra has with political high drama, and the war of words between politicians from both states have whipped up passions among people, according to locals.
In 1957, the MES won seven assembly seats – Bhalki in Bidar district, Haliyal in Karwar district, and Khanapur, Bagewadi, Nippani, Ucchangi and Belagavi in Belagavi – in Karnataka.
After 1972, the decline of MES began and in 1999, it lost all Assembly seats. The MES ruled Belagavi City Corporation to an extent that there were celebrations whenever a Kannadiga Mayor managed to get power.
While MES legislators raised pro-Maharashtra slogans in the Karnataka legislature, party corporators passed a resolution in the council for merger of Belagavi with Maharashtra. Amid the high drama, Belagavi’s MES Mayor’s face was blackened in Bengaluru.
The intense competition between ruling BJP and Congress might help the MES to win couple of seats this time. The MES is likely to get the support of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition of the Shiv Sena-UBT and the NCP, say sources.
On the other hand, Karnataka is lagging way back when compared to Maharashtra. The ruling BJP’s ministers and MPs have not raised their voice regarding the border dispute, with the presence of sizable number of Maratha-speaking people the reason behind it.
In Kagwad, Chikkodi and Athani constituencies, Marathas are deciding forces, in Belagavi North, Nippani, and Khanapur, they are deciding factors.
The MES, which everyone thought had lost its political existence, is all set to make a come back, say experts. MES General Secretary and former Belagavi Mayor Maloji Shantaram Ashtekar said that they are questioning whether the inclusion of Belagavi to Karnataka is a settled principle or not.
Kannadigas are not 70 per cent, as they have taken into consideration of whole of the district and given it to Karnataka, he argued.
Considering all factors, the ruling BJP has dropped an aggressive stand against Maharashtra and trying to win over the Maratha voters on the Hindutva plank.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had said that all the necessary steps are taken in regard to the border row as well as protecting life and property of Kannadigas living in the neighbouring Maharashtra.