Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday attempted to quell the rising demand for a separate North Karnataka state by initiating dialogue with representatives from organisations seeking autonomy, the Hindustan Times reported. The outfits have called for a shutdown on August 2 across all 13 districts of northern Karnataka to demand separate statehood for the region.

The chief minister said he would relocate some government offices from the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat and legislature in Bengaluru, to the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi in northern Karnataka. Belagavi is considered the second capital of the state.

“Consider me as one among you [people of north Karnataka],” Kumaraswamy said. “Some people want to create a distance between us by indulging in false propaganda. I have plans and programmes to earn your love and affection.”

Kumaraswamy said the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress coalition was committed to the uniform development of the state. “I plan to shift one anti-graft institution [Upa Lokayukta] to Belagavi,” the chief minister said. “In addition, three Right to Information commissioners will be shifted to the region, with two to Belagavi and one to Kalaburagi for equal representation in the state.”

The groups expressed dissatisfaction with the “negligible funds” allocated to northern Karnataka in the current budget and complained of “step-motherly treatment”. The Uttara Karnataka Pratyeka Rajya Horata Samiti (North Karnataka Separate Statehood Protest Committee) claimed the region was sidelined during the allotment of funds in the state budget announced on July 5.

The chief minister refuted the allegations that his budget discriminated against the northern region and asked for a year to execute his plans. Kumaraswamy blamed public representatives from the region for the status quo. “I am ready to work for 24 hours,” Kumaraswamy said. “I do not want to talk about who did what in the past. What I know is that I will take complete responsibility for developing north Karnataka.”

On Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Karnataka unit chief BS Yeddyurappa alleged that the Janata Dal (Secular) was responsible for stoking the demand for a separate North Karnataka state to strengthen its base in southern parts of the state. Kumaraswamy however countered the allegations by holding the saffron party and the media responsible for initiating the demand.