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Maharashtra Govt Puts Ruling BJP In Poll-bound Karnataka In Awkward Situation Over Border Dispute

On April 3, the Maharashtra government issued a notification extending the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Jan Arogya Yojana to 865 Marathi-speaking border villages in Karnataka.

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Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena (Shinde Faction) chief Eknath Shinde
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The Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government’s contentious decision to extend its health insurance scheme to 865 Marathi-speaking villages in neighbouring Karnataka has created an awkward situation for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the poll-bound southern state. 

The BJP is in power in Karnataka while in Maharashtra it is running a coalition government with the Eknath Shinde-faction of the Shiv Sena with him as the chief minister. Shinde’s decision has provided the Opposition parties in Karnataka, which votes in the Assembly election next month, fresh, ammunition to target the BJP as the two major states have been at the centre of a decades-long border dispute. 

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On April 3, the Maharashtra government issued a notification extending the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Jan Arogya Yojana to 865 Marathi-speaking border villages in Karnataka. Shinde had last month in the state legislature announced the decision to also implement the scheme in the villages claimed by Maharashtra in its border dispute with Karnataka. The 865 villages fall under 12 tehsils of Belagavi, Kalaburagi, Bidar and Uttar Kannada districts of Karnataka.  

The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular have accused the BJP-led Karnataka government of failing to protect the interests of the state and demanded that Maharashtra immediately roll back the notification.  

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Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said the Shinde government’s decision was “obnoxious” and that his party would not tolerate it.  Siddaramaiah accused Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai of inaction. “Why have they not been able to oppose this move of Maharashtra despite BJP being part of the government? Is BJP scared of Eknath Shinde,” Siddaramaiah asked.  

Bommai has himself spoken out against the Maharashtra government and accused it of trying to create confusion in the border areas of both states even when the matter was in the Supreme Court. The decision by Shinde was an attempt to disrupt ties between the two states, Bommai said on April 5. Bommai demanded that the Maharashtra government immediately withdraw its order and also issued a warning that if the Maharashtra government did not pay heed, his government would also implement a similar insurance scheme for the protection of “Kannadigas” on the Maharashtra border. The Shinde government was collecting letters from residents in these areas declaring themselves as belonging to Maharashtra, in the name of providing the benefits of the health insurance scheme, Bommai alleged. 

The fresh controversy over the Maharashtra and Karnataka border dispute comes just three months after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, after a meeting with the CMs of the two states, had announced that in the meeting it was agreed that neither state would claim each other’s land till the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the matter. In 2004, Maharashtra had filed a petition in the apex court staking claim over some Marathi-speaking villages in Karnataka, which strongly opposed the move. The matter is pending in the SC. 

In the meeting in December 2022, attended by Shinde, his deputy Devendra Fadnavis and Bommai, Shah said that three ministers from both states would meet and discuss the issue in detail. Both the States had agreed to form a committee under a senior IPS officer to ensure that law and order were maintained and that people, travellers or businessmen from other states living in the region do not face any kind of trouble, Shah had said. 

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H. D Kumaraswamy, leader of the JD (S) and former chief minister of Karnataka, accused the Maharashtra government involving the BJP of having a “China mindset” and treating his state like an enemy. The Shinde government’s decision regarding the 865 villages was a “cunning” attempt to break the union system, Kumaraswamy said. 

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