Belagavi: Raising several eyebrows and taking pro-Kannada activists by surprise, president of the state Congress women's cell, Laxmi Hebbalkar declared at a public function near here on Thursday that she would be the first to celebrate should Belagavi merge with the neighbouring state.
While Ms Hebbalkar went entirely against both her party and Karnataka's line on the border dispute with Maharashtra, that has for long laid claim to Belagavi owing to its large Marathi speaking population by her controversial statement, she drew loud applause from her audience in Basarikatti, dominated by Marathis.
Beginning her speech by recalling that the boundary dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra was pending before the Supreme Court, she said once it gave its verdict and Belagavi merged with the latter state, she would be the first to celebrate. "Laxmi Hebbalkar will be the first to hold a Maharashtra flag and shout Jai Maharashtra when Belagavi is merged with Maharashtra," she declared amidst loud applause.
Defending her statement, she said no other leader had the guts to say what she had. "I have said this because I have the guts to. I have never been afraid of anybody in my life except God and my parents. I have never had anything to do with religion, language or a boundary dispute. I am worried only about the development of Belagavi Rural assembly constituency,'' she added.
Ms Hebbalkar , who is hoping to contest the Assembly polls from Belagavi Rural for the second time, continued her speech both in Marathi and Hindi, urging people of Basarikatti to support her as the sitting MLA, Sanjay Patil of BJP, had failed to develop the constituency.
BJP leaders immediately pounced on her pro-Maharashtra statement saying she was trying to pander to the Marathi people of the constituency. “In the last election, the BJP, MES and Congress bagged about 30,000 votes each and we won by a narrow margin She is smart enough to understand the repercussions of taking a pro-Maharashtra stand , but did it any way to hog the limelight ahead of the coming Assembly polls,'' they charged....