Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah pitches for a state flag again
While inaugurating the three-day 83rd Akhil Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah said that those who oppose a separate state flag are disrespecting the state and language. He declared that "having a state anthem and flag is not against the national anthem and flag." Is this demand new or is Siddaramaiah only refurbishing an earlier claim? What are the implications? Let's analyze.
What does the Constitution say about this?
Regarding states other than J&K, the constitution is silent on state flags; this makes it open to interpretation. In SR Bommai v/s Union of India (1994), SC said federalism is the constitution's basic feature and states are supreme in their domain. Thus, constitution does not prohibit a state flag; however, it shouldn't dishonor the national flag and should be hoisted below it.
How did the current unofficial flag come about?
The existing unofficial Kannada flag was adapted in the 1960s. Ramamurthy, a state reorganization proponent, designed the flag in 1952 to forward the Kannada cause. The yellow (turmeric) and red (vermilion) symbolize fertility. In Hindu mythology, women are offered turmeric and vermilion as blessing for a happy married life. Ramamurthy popularized the flag with the hope that Karnataka would be developed and fertile.
BJP-led Sadanand Gowda government's decision about hoisting flag
It should be noted that the state flag debate is not new. In 2012, the then-CM BJP's Sadanand Gowda announced that the Kannada flag will be hoisted atop all government buildings, alongside the national flag. However, this decision was later retracted by BJP.
Why did this issue arise again?
Why exactly did this issue arise? Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka BJP has been using rhetoric for Hindu mobilization. Rising spurts of violence between PFI and RSS activists in alleged "Hindutva laboratory" Mangalore has made Siddaramaiah anxious. Moreover, Siddaramaiah is trying to cash-in on the "imposition" of Hindi language by Centre. Through the flag debate, he is trying to use Kannada pride as an electoral clincher.
With eye on polls, Siddaramaiah's sops for Kannada pride
Giving teeth to the flag demand, Siddaramaiah constituted a 9-member committee to design a state flag and understand its legalities. Further, to reinforce Kannada pride, Siddaramaiah promised to make Kannada the medium of instruction in education. He has increased Kannada activities' funds from Rs. 160cr to Rs. 424cr and provided Rs. 12cr for Sammelana's activities. In KPSC, he introduced 5% reservation for Kannada-medium aspirants.
However, will this "pro-Kannada" strategy work?
Historically, pro-Kannada outfits have mostly lost their deposit during polls. This could be because out of Karnataka's 30 districts, only old Mysore's five districts are predominantly Kannada. Other regions are trilingual or bilingual, sharing space with languages like Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Konkaki, Tulu, Kodava etc. Moreover, unequal development and distribution of resources have given rise to separate state agitations like Kodava state, Tulunadu, etc.