Congress on a perilous path in Karnataka

The current CM Siddaramaiah has embarked on a regional/linguistic and religious path for winning the poll

The elections to the Assembly in Karnataka are expected in 2018 and it is even speculated that they could be advanced by the incumbent Government of Siddaramaiah—who is Congress Chief Minister.

It is pertinent to note that among large states, Congress is in power in Punjab and Karnataka. Karnataka in the south is considered as a bastion of Congress for long. If you recall Indira Gandhi made her post emergency come back to Parliament from Karnataka with a victory at Chikmagalur Lok Sabha poll. Sonia Gandhi the current Congress President –from 1998- also won her parliamentary poll from Bellary in Karnataka apart from her constituency in UP namely Rai Bareilly.

KDA went on a high gear and “threatened” that Bank employees not learning Kannada in six months will be removed from their jobs

From many angles, Karnataka is an important State for Congress and it will work hard to win a majority in the state assembly. But the path taken by the national party of more than 130 years old is dangerous and could have long-term consequences.

The current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has embarked on a regional/linguistic and religious path for winning the poll.

Some fringe groups started the so-called “Anti-Hindi” agitation to remove Hindi from name boards in Metro stations in Bengaluru. The boards had Kannada and English along with Hindi—but it was claimed as Hindi imposition and State Government through its Kannada Development Authority [KDA] gave support to the agitation. That such an agitation will not have much support in say northern or coastal parts of Karnataka was known to the Congress. So it restricted it to the metro stations at Bengaluru.

KDA went on a high gear and “threatened” that Bank employees not learning Kannada in six months will be removed from their jobs. That authority did not have any authority on the banking system was lost on it. Now it has demanded that Bank recruitment exams be conducted in Kannada also. But then it needs to be done in all recognized languages and officers in Banks are transferable anywhere in India. So knowing only mother tongue may not be useful. But all these are not important when elections are near.

Then the CM has constituted a committee to study the issue of the separate flag for the state. One Red and the Yellow flag has been used by Kannada protagonists and many think that it is a state flag without realizing in India states do not have separate flags—except J&K. Siddaramaiah argues that in the US many states have their own flags. The USA is a federation of States. Many states were invaded etc. to integrate into the nation. In our case, we were a nation much before British and Moghuls came in. Actually, Sardar Patel integrated more than 500 kingdoms into the country. Hence if at all, Karnataka can use the flag of Mysore Kingdom since the state got formed only in 1956.

This movement in Karnataka finally will give its demand to state Government and CM himself suggested that he will forward it to Centre since the only Centre can decide on this

Not only that, Congress Party has decided to support and in a sense provoke the demand for a separate religious tag to Lingayats. It is organizing conventions in various parts of the state attended by lakhs of people for this demand. Prominent “Virakta” mutt seers—of Lingayats- are active in this.

The important point to note is that Lingayats are running many educational institutions in northern Karnataka and Post RTE—which is applicable to only Hindu institutions-it is felt that having a separate religious tag will be helpful to come out of the clutches of Government regulations. Similar is the thinking of many mutts.

The argument is that Basavanna– the 12th-century reformer- actually formed a separate religion from the regular Hindu religion. Also, it is argued that Veerashaiva Lingayats are not part of this “religion” since they accept Vedas etc. One of the major and respected seer Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru has also joined the movement recently.

This is similar to Ramakrishna Mutt claiming some year ago that they are a separate religion. That was to come out of the regulations of the communist government in West Bengal. Ironically communists were arguing that Ramakrishna mutt is part of Hindu religion. Finally, the Supreme Court reprimanded the Mutt saying Swami Vivekananda spent his entire life spreading Hinduism in the nook and corner of the world and closed the matter.

South is fertile soil for this with Marxists in Kerala, Dravidian parties in TN and now Congress in Karnataka joining for the so-called “regional” identity

This movement in Karnataka finally will give its demand to state Government and CM himself suggested that he will forward it to Centre since the only Centre can decide on this. It will become a festering issue between Lingayats and the Centre.

Not only that every reform movement—be it Shirdi Saibaba or SNDP of Narayana Guru or Alwars/Nayanmars or Sankara Deva of Assam or Chaitanya Maha Prabhu etc. can demand separate religious tag. One begins to wonder if these are propelled by forces from outside India and supported by Congress wittingly –knowing fully the perils of such demands.

Already some fringe elements in Tamil Nadu arguing that Tamils or not Hindus and so many a fissiparous tendencies which would ultimately open the way for Breaking India forces.

South is fertile soil for this with Marxists in Kerala, Dravidian parties in TN and now Congress in Karnataka joining for the so-called “regional” identity. Congress which is the oldest party of the country which fought for our freedom and which united India by merging 500+ small and big kingdom is playing a dubious role in this. It should recollect what happens to such short-term political gains as in the case of Khalistanis and LTTE.

Once these forces are encouraged or the genii are released from the bottle—it will be very difficult to put it back. Siddaramaih and Congress may win the coming Assembly poll but at what cost?

Views Personal—Author is a teacher for last 40 years in the field of Management.

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