On November 1 this year Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah is expected to officially announce changes to the names of 12 cities in the state. The new Kannada names are likely to bring a cheer to native speakers of the language especially since they will become official on the day Karnataka was born.
The colonial era name Bangalore, for instance, will become Bengaluru - a name that is believed to derive from the even older Benda-Kaal-Uru (the city of boiled beans)
The Union home ministry on Friday issued a notification approving the state government's eight-year-old proposal to change the names. The first official proposal was sent during the chief ministership of N Dharam in 2006 when both the state and central governments were led by the Congress. The proposal has been finally brought out of the freezer by the Modi government.
However, it will still be a matter of pride for Siddaramaiah to announce the new names on November 1 - Karnataka Rajyotsava or Karnataka Formation Day.
Karnataka might have been born out of the demand for a separate state for Kannada speakers. But Kannada is not the only ancient language spoken within the boundaries of the state.
In Tulu - a Dravidian language spoken in coastal Karnataka dating back to the 14th century - the city of Mangalore is called Kudla. The Konkani speakers of the region call Mangalore Kodial and the Beary speakers call it Maikala. The change from the English Mangalore to the Kannada Mangaluru is unlikely to trigger euphoria in the region where the movement for a separate linguistic state has existed ever since Karnataka was formed.
In Belgaum, which will now be called Belagavi, the change is expected to be received with hostility from the Marathi speakers, many of whom want to merge the parts of the region with Maharashtra. Belagavi is, after all, a Kannada name not a Marathi one. The approval granted to new name by the centre will surely agitate the Belgaum based Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) as well as the Shiv Sena.
Interestingly, the new name for Belgaum comes at a time when the state government is considering banning the MES, which has gained a reputation for militant agitations. The MES and the Shiv Sena are not likely to forgive the BJP led central government for choosing Kannada pride over Maratha pride and joining concert with the Congress government in Karnataka.
Although Siddaramaiah had little to do with the changes, it will come as an image boost for him when his government is just coming into stride. After being accused of lethargy, the Siddaramaiah government has been showing some signs of life by winning the recent bye-elections.