Maharashtra Congress delegation meets Sonia over Belgaum



New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Saturday insisted that he had not given up on the demand for Union Territory status for disputed boundary areas in Karnataka but refrained from raising it with party chief Sonia Gandhi.

A delegation of Maharashtra Congress leaders, led by Chavan, met party chief Gandhi and apprised her of the situation in the state in the wake of flaring up of the boundary dispute with Karnataka.

The delegation wanted to meet Gandhi soon after they met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 14 but could not do so due to scheduling issues.

They wanted a team appointed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to tour the disputed areas in Karnataka where Marathi-speaking people were being "harassed" by the state government there.

Chavan said he was firm on his demand for granting Union Territory status to the 865 villages in Karnataka which have a majority of Marathi-speaking population.

"The demand for UT status remains. But it was not raised in the discussions with Gandhi," Chavan told reporters.

The Maharashtra-Karnataka boundary row came to the limelight following the Central government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court in late June that the disputed areas could not be made part of Maharashtra merely because a majority of the population there speak Marathi.

"All aspects and problems of Maharashtra were discussed," state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said when asked about the meeting.

The delegation wanted the Centre to step in if Karnataka failed to protect the interests of the Marathi-speaking population in the boundary areas.

Chavan was dismissive about former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu courting arrest in Nanded yesterday over the controversial Babhali barrage project.

"Naidu's actions are political as assembly bye-elections have been declared in the neighbouring state," Chavan said.

He said Naidu's march to Nanded was "unnecessary" as it could lead to a law and order situation in the region.

Chavan also condemned the attack on the office of a Marathi news channel in Kolhapur, allegedly carried out by Shiv Sena activists.

"I condemn the attack on the media house. Legal and police action will be taken against all those found guilty," the chief minister said.

Manipur Chief Minister Ikram Ibobi Singh and Mizoram Chief Minister Pu Lalthanhawla also met Gandhi.

PTI