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Skip cry to Pranab in Belgaum dispute

Mumbai, Oct. 8: Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal today urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to accept a Karnataka invitation to inaugurate an Assembly building in disputed Belgaum, a day after the Shiv Sena made a similar request.

The NCP leader wrote to Mukherjee saying his presence at Thursday’s opening of the Vidhan Bhavan “would amount to the Centre’s tacit endorsement” of Karnataka’s stand “disregarding Maharashtra’s legitimate claims”.

“It would be inappropriate for you to accept such an invitation for a variety of reasons: one, the inter-state dispute remains unresolved; and two, by virtue of its physical control over the disputed region, Karnataka is trying to strengthen its stranglehold by shifting part of its legislative work to Belgaum.”

The public works minister claimed Karnataka’s BJP government had accorded Belgaum the status of the state’s second capital by building the new Assembly.

Belgaum and its neighbouring areas have been the bone of contention between the two states for over five decades. Bhujbal alleged the second capital move was meant “to rile the linguistic sentiments of the Marathi-speaking people in the disputed region”.

He reminded Mukherjee that the Congress-NCP government of Maharashtra had filed a petition in the Supreme Court.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray — whose party is a BJP ally — had also referred to the ongoing case yesterday. “The matter is sub judice. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan should check if the inauguration amounts to contempt.”