A Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament from Karnataka has earned the wrath of opposition parties and pro-Kannada activists for trying to hoist a saffron flag in Belgaum with the help of a group fighting for the town's inclusion in neighbouring Maharashtra.
BJP leader Suresh Angadi, who represents Belgaum in the Lok Sabha and has been renominated as party candidate for the upcoming polls, was on Thursday slapped with cases by the election authorities for violating the Representation of the People Act that prohibits actions inciting communal or linguistic animosities.
Sanjay Patil, a member of the legislative assembly from the area, is also facing similar cases as he assisted Angadi on Tuesday in Belgaum, about 500 km from Bangalore.
Belgaum is claimed by Maharashtra on the ground that a substantial number of Marathi speaking people live there. The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES - a party for unification of Belgaum with Maharashtra) has a strong base in Belgaum.
On Tuesday Angadi, Patil and their supporters with the help of MES members tried to hoist a saffron' flag, which is also the flag of MES, on the new building of the Belgaum city corporation.
Pro-Kannada activists have been staging demonstrations in Belgaum and other parts of Karnataka, demanding action against Angadi and Patil.
The opposition Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular have condemned Angadi's action and are accusing the BJP, ruling Karnataka for the first time, of "selling out" the state's interests to get the support of the MES in the Lok Sabha polls.
Following complaints by these parties and pro-Kannada organisations, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer MN Vidyashankar directed Belgaum Deputy Commissioner J Ravishankar to file criminal cases against Angadi and Patil.
Protests against Angadi's action prompted Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to assure that his government "is fully committed to protect and promote Kannada language and culture. There is no question of compromise as far as the language and its symbols like Kannada flag," he said in a statement.