Mumbai: Shiv Sena on Monday received a major setback as its move to play up the Marathi card by extending its support to the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) in Belgaum civic body elections did not work. MES was routed as it could win merely four seats while BJP emerged victorious by winning 35 seats.
Raut had urged the Marathi-speaking people to wholeheartedly vote MES in a bid to checkmate its estranged ally BJP. He last week had predicted that MES along with other Marathi-speaking organisations will win 30 to unfurl saffron flag atop the Belgaum Municipal Corporation. However, Raut faced a major embarrassment as BJP, which for the first time contested the election on party symbol, marched with flying colours.
Shiv Sena, after parting ways with BJP to form the government with new allies NCP and Congress in the state, has been repeatedly taking up the alleged atrocities on the people residing in Maharashtra-Karnataka border districts. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has demanded that the disputed areas of the Maharashtra-Karnataka border should be declared a Union territory until the Supreme Court gives its final order on the issue. He further urged that all political parties should stand united for the Marathi-speaking people in the disputed border areas.
Incidentally, Shiv Sena had supported MES nominee Shubham Shelke during the by-poll to the Belgaum Lok Sabha seat held in May. Raut, who had campaigned for Shelke, had asserted that at least Marathi politicians from Maharashtra should not campaign against a Marathi candidate in Belgaum. He had criticised former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for holding rallies for the BJP nominee.
However, BJP has lashed out at Shiv Sena and Raut saying that the voters voted for nationalism while rejecting regionalism propagated by Shiv Sena.
Raut shot back at BJP for celebrating the party's victory in Belgaum civic body. "Don’t you feel ashamed that a Marathi-speaking candidate has lost in Belgaum?’’ he asked the BJP.
Raut sniffed conspiracy in the outcome of the poll results. "We were sure that Marathi-speaking people would establish power in Belgaum. I have no idea how much conspiracy is involved. Information will gradually come to light regarding what the Karnataka government has done wrong by defeating the Marathi people so that Maharashtra's right over Belgaum should not remain,’’ he claimed.