Karnataka Minister Under Fire For "Belagavi Was Part Of Maharashtra" Remarks

"Karnataka has given eight Jnanpith awardees. Our literature, art and culture is such a matter of pride and joy for us," she said.

Karnataka Minister Under Fire For 'Belagavi Was Part Of Maharashtra' Remarks

She made the remarks while speaking at a Kannada litterateurs meet (File/ANI)

Belagavi, Karnataka:

The opposition BJP and JD(S) on Monday rallied against Karnataka Minister Lakshmi Hebbalkar after her recent statement on Belagavi being 'a part of Maharashtra before Independence'.

Ms Hebbalkar, a native of Belagavi, had made the comments recently while speaking at a Kannada litterateurs meet at Karadaga village here.

"Before independence, Karnataka and Maharashtra had many commonalities. Belagavi was a part of Maharashtra and we were living with warmth," the Woman and Child Welfare Minister said, remarking that people here are "blessed" to have been born in Karnataka.

Kannada litterateurs have made the people aware of the rich Kannada language, culture, land, water and the state's heritage, she added.

"Karnataka has given eight Jnanpith awardees. Our literature, art and culture is such a matter of pride and joy for us," she said.

Her statement on Belagavi being a part of Maharashtra before independence drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties today.

State BJP President B Y Vijayendra said that with these comments, the minister had attempted to disturb the sovereignty of Karnataka and the linguistic harmony at the inter-state border. He called for her immediate dismissal from the state cabinet.

"It is nothing but a political gimmick of the minister occupying a responsible post, who takes pride in calling herself a 'Kannadatti' (native of Karnataka), to set a harmonious society on fire in this election season.

"Let Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who makes long speeches about commitment to Kannada, dismiss the disloyal minister Lakshmi Hebbalkar from the cabinet immediately. Let him thereby show their real concern for the sovereignty and linguistic harmony of Karnataka," Vijayendra said.

Criticising the minister, former Chief Minister and JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy said that she has not yet come out of her "infatuation" for Maharashtra.

"People in responsible positions should not speak like this. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah should teach the minister properly," Kumaraswamy said.

Leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly R Ashoka charged the minister with indulging in "vote bank politics." "When there is so much agitation happening over the border row, when the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti miscreants create so much ruckus in the state, the minister's statement was for vote bank politics. Parliament elections are approaching and she wants to rekindle the issue," the BJP leader said, alleging that Hebbalkar had "hurt the sentiments of Kannadigas." 

The border row over Belagavi between Karnataka and Maharashtra dates back to 1957 when states were reorganised on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, as it had a sizable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to over 800 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka.

Karnataka maintains that the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report is final.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)