Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday urged the union government to declare Belgaum and 865 villages on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, with a majority Marathi-speaking population, a union territory till the Supreme Court gives its verdict on the dispute. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray had made a similar demand earlier.
Chavan also told the state legislative assembly that he will lead an all-party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today to demand an urgent resolution of the long-pending boundary dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka. The decision to call on Singh was taken after a marathon debate in both houses of the state legislature during the ongoing monsoon session.
Chavan also appealed to the BJP legislators to advise their party's government in Karnataka to seek an amicable solution to the dispute.
Replying to a debate in the assembly, Chavan said the Marathi-speaking people of Belgaum and surrounding areas have been facing several problems. ''There are many complaints of even names of villages being changed,'' he said.
He said there was a law and order situation in the disputed area and Marathi people continue to be discriminated against. ''Even the recent election to the Belgaum civic body wasn't conducted in a free manner,'' he said.
He rejected the opposition's charge that the state had appointed junior counsels to argue the matter in the apex court. ''We have appointed senior counsels like Harish Salve, V Bobde and K R Parasaran to plead the state's stand. If the opposition has any more names then we can appoint them also,'' he added.