Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday said it was “obnoxious” of Uddhav Thackeray to say that his government would incorporate into Maharashtra the areas of Karnataka where Marathi-speaking people are in majority, reported NDTV. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader accused the Maharashtra chief minister of “sabotaging an amicable atmosphere”.

“The statement of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s speech on the integration of Marathi language and culture into Maharashtra is obnoxious,” Yediyurappa said. “This is contrary to the principles of the Indian Union.”

Maharashtra maintains its claim over certain areas of Karnataka, including Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani, contending that the majority of population in these areas is Marathi-speaking.

A controversy erupted on Sunday after Thackeray said that his government was committed towards bringing “Karnataka-wide Marathi-speaking and cultural region” to Maharashtra. This would be the “true tribute to those who accepted martyrdom in the boundary battle,” the Chief Minister’s Office said in a series of tweets. “We are united and committed towards it.”

Thackeray’s comments came on the day when a few pro-Marathi activists led by local units of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti had organised the “Martyrs Day” in Belagavi. Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, a regional organisation fighting for the merger of areas in Karnataka with Maharashtra, observes January 17 as the “martyrs day” for those who died for the cause in 1956.

The chief minister’s statement was met with widespread condemnation in Karnataka, where pro-Kannada organisations held demonstrations, and burnt Thackeray’s effigy. “There is no question of giving even an inch of land from Karnataka to Maharashtra,” Yediyurappa told reporters on Monday, according to PTI. “He should give up issuing statements just for political reasons.”

In a series of tweets, Yediyurappa added that Marathi people have been living in harmony with Kannadigas in Karnataka. Likewise, Kannadigas living in the border districts of Maharashtra are living in harmony with the Marathi people there, he said.

The BJP leader said he was “pained” with Thackeray’s remarks that could disrupt the prevailing harmonious atmosphere. “I expect Shri Uddhav Thackeray, as a true Indian, to show his commitment and respect to the principles of federalism in letter and spirit,” he added.

Several other regional leaders condemned Thackeray’s statement. Former Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah asked the Shiv Sena leader to not “instigate us by bringing up the issue which is already resolved”. Belagavi is an integral part of Karnataka, he asserted.

Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy said, “Looking at his tweets, it appears like a statement issued by a terrorist.”

Kumaraswamy also likened Thackeray’s statement with Chinese expansionism, reported PTI. “Uddhav Thackeray’s irresponsible statement that ‘Karnataka occupied territories will be annexed to Maharashtra’ sounds like Chinese expansionism,” he wrote. “Such an expansionism will jeopardise the harmony among states formed on the linguistic ground.”

Meanwhile, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan said the Congress should withdraw its support from Shiv Sena. “This kind of party and chief minister should not be supported,” he added. “They should be shown their place.”