In an attempt to corner BJP by pushing it hard on regional issues, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah comes out with a rather ulterior move which, if assumes dangerous proportions, has all potential to promote parochialism and also sow seeds of separatism
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has ventured to play with fire by constituting a nine-member committee of senior officials to “work out an action plan” to have a separate regional flag for Karnataka and also give it a legal sanctity.
This has shocked the well-meaning literary personalities; true & genuine Kannada activists and sincere academicians. Worse, Congress General Secretary P. Venugopal himself said that sounded something sane; “The Constitution does not provide for any state to have a separate flag. We have one national flag. That is enough. I will ascertain from my party government as to what is this all about.”
State BJP president and former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa was strident. He said, “The politics of rank opportunism, deceit and double-standards are clearly visible in the statement made by the chief minister. On one hand Siddaramaiah says that the Constitution does not provide provision for any states to have a separate flag. On the other hand, he constitutes a committee consisting of senior officers to study this matter which does not have Constitutional sanction.”
Yeddyurappa, the stormy petrel of Karnataka politics continued, “This talk by forked-tongue is nothing but a sinister attempt to garner votes by stoking linguistic and parochial passions keeping the upcoming elections in view.”
He delved deep into history and added, ““Indira Gandhi too played a dangerous game of promoting Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in order to tackle the Akalis. It was a sheer political game and a desperate move for political and electoral one-upmanship. We know what happened later. Punjab bled for almost a decade. It took the life of our Prime Minister. The country’s unity and integrity were at stake. I wish Siddaramaiah realises what he is doing.”
According to Yeddyurappa, this needless move by the Congress government is, rather, a desperate attempt on the part of Siddaramaiah to divert the attention of the people’s from his abject failures on all fronts.
“If Siddaramaiah thinks that he will be able to stoke emotions, sentiments and passions in order to cover up his corrupt and anti-people administration, he is wrong. Kannadigas are nationalists like their counterpart in other parts of the country. This will prove disastrous for Siddaramaiah. The people have seen through the gimmick being played by the chief minister,” he added.
In a rather surprise and welcome development, JD (S) President and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy too expressed his shock and displeasure over Siddaramaiah’s move. “This is unwarranted. The chief minister wants to divert the attention of the people from his failures. There is no provision for states to have separate flags of their own.”
This needless move comes following a letter written by Patil Puttappa, a nonagenarian journalist and freedom fighter based in Hubli demanding the existing “Red and Yellow” flag that is being used by cultural organisations as Kannada flag, be given legal sanctity.
Whether this ulterior strategy would pay electoral dividends or not is a moot question. But this diabolical move will definitely promote regional chauvinism and parochialism, which, if not handled properly, can also sow the seeds of separatism in future.
Siddaramaiah did not have had any logical reply when asked whether this was necessary. “Has the Constitution prevented any state from having a flag of its own? No. I don’t have to learn anything from the BJP. I also know the statute,” he said. This was hardly convincing.
This move of Siddaramaiah, ostensibly to promote Kannada and its culture, is hardly convincing. As many as 3000 and odd Kannada medium schools have been closed in the last three years. One of his cabinet colleagues, Roshan Baig has used Urdu as medium of correspondence in his official letter head. The chief minister has turned a blind eye to both these vital issues.
“If Siddaramaiah is so concerned to promote Kannada and culture, why then he has named the low-cost canteens after Indira and why not Kittur Rani Chennamma, the country’s one of the greatest freedom fighter? Why flag? Is this not politicking? Is this not a rather clever move to stoke regional passions and emotions?,” asked Shobha Karandlaje, BJP general secretary and MP from Udupi-Chikamagalur Lok Sabha constituency.
Cultural organisations in Karnataka use the two-coloured flag – Red & Yellow – as Kannada flag. Yellow represents “Arishina” (turmeric) and Red represents “kumkum” (vermillion). These two are widely regarded as essential components to worship Goddess Bhuvaneshwari, the presiding deity of Karnataka.
“BJP has all reverence towards this flag which is being widely used in all cultural and literary functions as it encompasses the cultural heritage of the state. But the BJP will oppose any attempt to have a political flag with legal sanctity because there cannot be two legally sanctioned flags apart from the only tri-colour as enshrined in the Constitution,” KumBharathiMagdum, BJP state secretary said.
The Congress government’s move is widely described as politically and electorally expedient. It is as glaring as the sun-light that the Congress has placed its short-term political and electoral interests ahead of the long-term national interest.
“You are not wrong. It is possible and could be,” Yeddyurappa said when asked if the Congress is trying to corner and embarrass BJP on regional issues of language, Hindi imposition, regional flag etc, etc.
He said, “BJP is committed for Kannada’s supremacy in all walks of Karnataka’s day-to-day life. Kannada has a history of over 2000 years. It is the richest language which has got seven Jnanapeeth Awards. Kannadigas have made Karnataka proud not only in India but also abroad. We are not anti-Kannada. We worship Kannada because it is one of the proud Indian language.”
But this conscientious leader also had a word of caution. “We also have to keep in mind that India is one nation and union of states. Our Constitution and Polity are federal in form but unitary in content. National Unity and Integrity are also important. Our great poets have sung that Karnataka is the worthy sister of proud Mother India,” Yeddyurappa explained.
At a time when centrifugal forces are out to devour India by stoking and using regional sentiments, it is worthwhile to recall that the founder-President of the BJP Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had given a call during Kashmir struggle that “ek desh mey dho vidhan; dh onishaan; dho pradhan” nahi challenge, nahi challenge” (In one country, there cannot be two Prime Ministers, two Constitutions and two flags).
Dr Mukherjee died in Srinagar central prison under mysterious circumstances when Late Sheikh Abdulla was ruling Jammu and Kashmir.
Congress government’s move in Karnataka is a different kind of vote-bank politics. But it is fraught with dangerous consequences. This unwarranted move is pregnant with distinct possibilities of paving the way for regional chauvinism.
Yeddyurappa signed off by saying, “I urge the chief minister to dissolve the newly-constituted flag committee in order to send a clear and categorical message to the people of the state as well as the country that Karnataka will not allow narrow parochialism to over-ride national interests in the pretext of promoting regionalism.”
By S.A. Hemantha Kumar