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Raut Acting As Congress Middleman And Following Its Instructions In Bid To Cut BJP's Votes In Belagavi: Fadnavis

The dispute dates back to the 1960s after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim on Belagavi, earlier known as Belgaum, which was part of the Bombay Presidency at the time of independence, on linguistic grounds.

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Devendra Fadnavis
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Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday alleged that Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut was campaigning in Karnataka's Belagavi on the instructions of the Congress in a bid to cut the BJP's votes.

Fadnavis was speaking to reporters in Belagavi district, which has a significant population of Marathi-speaking people and has been a bone of contention between the two neighbouring states - Maharashtra and Karnataka - for decades.

The dispute dates back to the 1960s after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim on Belagavi, earlier known as Belgaum, which was part of the Bombay Presidency at the time of independence, on linguistic grounds.

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"If Raut stops functioning like a middleman of the Congress, then I will not come here...But he is here on the instructions of the Congress to cut BJP's votes," Fadnavis claimed.

"Raut's party and Congress are political allies, so instead of telling us he should have asked Congress leaders not to field candidates here in Belagavi. But he will not tell that to Congress," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former chief minister added. 

On several occasions in the past, Raut dared Fadnavis to support the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), a body fighting for the rights of the Marathi-speaking people in Belagavi-Karwar areas of the southern state, and accused the BJP of weakening the outfit. 

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The Congress, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra. In Karnataka, the Congress is the principal opposition party seeking to dislodge the BJP government. Assembly elections in Karnataka will be held on May 10. 

On Wednesday, Raut addressed a rally in Belagavi to campaign for Murlidhar Patil, an MES candidate from Khanapur. When asked about BJP's stand on solving the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, Fadnavis said, "My party as well as I am in full support of the Marathi-speaking people currently living in Belagavi..."

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