Karnataka government unveils state flag, awaits Centre’s approval
The flag design will now be sent to the Central Government for approval, following which it will be announced as the Karnataka flag.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday unveiled the state flag, terming the move a historic decision that has been taken keeping in mind the history of the state and to promote the self-respect of the people, although analysts say the primary motivation may be the coming state elections.
“The state cabinet had asked me to take a decision after taking the opinion of pro-Kannada organisations and intellectuals,” Siddaramaiah said. “This is a historic decision. However, we cannot take the decision by ourselves and will require the Centre’s approval,” he added.
The proposal to have a state flag will be sent to the home ministry for approval. “We will press upon the Centre to clear this soon,” the chief minister said.
“This is for the first time that the state will have its own flag. There is no provision in the Constitution that prohibits any state from having its own flag,” Siddaramaiah said.
“This flag will be flown below the national flag,” he added.
Except Jammu and Kashmir, no other state in India has its own flag.
The new flag is a departure from what was earlier used unofficially as the Kannada flag. While it retains the classic bands of yellow on top and red at the bottom, a strip of white, symbolising peace, has been added.
At the heart of the flag is the official emblem of the state, the coat of arms of the erstwhile state of Mysore.
Patil Puttappa, a veteran journalist and one of two people who petitioned the government urging it identify a state flag, said he welcomed the move.
“I had suggested that the state needed a cultural flag that will be flown below the national flag,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called the move a diversionary tactic by a government facing flak over the lack of security in the state.
“Siddaramaiah has unveiled the flag because his government is on the back foot over the stabbing of the Lokayukta on Wednesday,” said party spokesperson S Prakash.
The anti-corruption ombudsman was stabbed by a disgruntled complainant in his office.
“Let us not forget that it was former chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda (of the BJP) who initiated the move for identifying a state flag. Siddaramaiah sat on this decision for four years and has used it now because of his political troubles,” Prakash said.
He said the BJP had no objection to the state flag and even its design. “Let them recommend it to the Centre, which will decide on the issue after getting legal opinion,” he said.
With an eye on the state elections, scheduled to be held in May, the Karnataka government has over the past year introduced a series of measures to project the local identity.
It has made Kannada and the singing of the official state anthem mandatory in schools.
Last year, the government also weighed in on the side of the pro-Kannada organisations protesting the use of Hindi in signboards at metro rail stations.
According to Chandan Gowda, professor of sociology at the Azim Premji University, the inclusion of Karnataka’s state emblem, which includes the Indian state’s emblem of four lions found on the Ashoka pillar, signals an attempt to affirm Karnataka as an integral part of India.
However, Gowda doubts whether this move will help the government in the election.
“I doubt that there is a Kannada vote that can be electorally decisive in the coming elections,” he said. “It could at best mean an increase in a few thousand votes in Bengaluru, but not sufficient to swing an election in any constituency.”