Maratha board row: Pro-Kannada groups call for state-wide bandh on Dec 5

Pro-Kannada groups have expressed their disapproval of the government’s decision to allocate Rs 50 crore to set up a Maratha Development Board.
BS Yediyurappa
BS Yediyurappa
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Several pro-Kannada organisations have called for a state-wide bandh on December 5 in the wake of the Karnataka government establishing the Maratha Development Board earlier this week. On Monday, the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government announced the establishment of the Maratha Development Board and allocated Rs 50 crore in funds for the same. Pro-Kannada groups expressed their backlash and called it an ‘anti-Kannada’ move by the Chief Minister. Thse groups stated that the government’s move was simply to win the vote of the Marathi-speaking population in Basavakalyan and Maski, where bye-elections are slated to take place soon. 

The bandh on December 5 is being led by Vatal Nagaraj and his party — Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha. Organisations including Karnataka Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene, Shivarame Gowda’s faction of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Karnataka Janapada Vedike and Jai Karnataka are a part of the bandh. T Narayanagowda’s Karnataka rakshana Vedike is not taking part in the bandh. 

Speaking to TNM, T Narayanagowda said that members of his organisation believe that bandhs are ineffective and said that they have begun protesting in all districts of the state. “We have been protesting since yesterday (Tuesday) and will continue to stage protests in every district until the government rolls back this order,” Narayanagowda said. 

Harish, president of KRV Yuva Sene said that the pro-Kannada groups in support of the bandh are in talks with members of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), and autorickshaw drivers’ unions to gain their support for the bandh. KRV Yuva Sene is also holding talks with the cab drivers’ unions to gain their support. 

“We are confident that any Kannadiga will support our cause. In the interim, starting next week, we will hold protests in Bengaluru and demand that the government set up such boards for every caste in the state, especially the Dalit, OBC and Adivasi communities. These communities have been disadvantaged for a long time but the government is not paying attention to their upliftment,” Harish said. 

Speaking to TNM, Vatal Nagaraj said that the establishment of the Maratha Development Board, is a “political gimmick”. The Basavakalyan constituency has a sizeable population of Marathi-speaking people. He said that the government had taken this decision simply to win votes for the upcoming bye-elections. “During the Sira polls (bye-polls) too, the government had set up the Kadugolla Development Board. This is because Sira has a considerable population of people from the Golla community. Instead of prioritising Kannada development, why should Marathi-speaking people be given preference?” Vatal Nagaraj questioned. 

The opposition to the Maratha Development Board also comes in the backdrop of the long-standing border dispute between Karnataka and Belagavi. Pro-Marathi groups in Maharashtra claim that Belagavi should be a part of its state as the district has a large population of Marathi-speaking people. 

“Will the government establish such boards for Tamil and Telugu-speaking people too? The BJP is playing political games as they want to gain control of Maharashtra. This is to appease vote banks in both states,” Vatal Nagaraj alleged. 

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