Karnataka flag: Hollow symbolism or bid to divert attention from govt failures? | opinion | top | Hindustan Times
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Karnataka flag: Hollow symbolism or bid to divert attention from govt failures?

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has showed why he is no pushover. He has played the regional card, much like the Shiv Sena/MNS’ ‘Marathi manoos’. With the state flag move, he has played the BJP and other regional parties in their own game

opinion Updated: Jul 20, 2017 16:11 IST
Viju Cherian
Viju Cherian
Hindustan Times
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah,state flag,Karnataka flag
As long as the Karnataka government is not breaking the law, it is well within its right to think of a state flag (File Photo)(AFP)

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah’s move to set up a nine-member panel to look into the feasibility of legalising a state flag is political manoeuvring by the CM to deflect public resentment, and, more importantly, to obscure his government’s failure to deliver on many fronts as the assembly elections are within a year’s time.

The state is facing a severe drought and some reports suggest that more than 2,500 farmers have committed suicide unable to repay loans after crop failures. Corruption and law and order have also been areas where the Congress government’s performance has come under scrutiny.

But alarm bells have sounded in Delhi, especially also across TV newsrooms, for a different reason. Spokespersons of political parties have come out condemning it, some calling it “anti-national” and even reading secessionist motives behind the move. These allegations or fears are illogical.

It is an irony to see a state flag as a sign of secessionism. “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States” (as the Constitution reads) is a clear indication that India is a beautiful and harmonious union of diverse — diverse in language, customs, cuisine, etc — states. If these divisions have not posed a threat, but have, in turn, strengthened the nation’s core, a state flag cannot pose any reasonable threat to national integrity.

The fact is that as long as the Karnataka government is not overstepping its remit nor breaking the law of the land, it is well within its right to think of a state flag.

More than an ill-placed paranoia on the symbolism and supposed message associated with a state flag, it should be the reasons that are suggested for such a flag that should be of concern. Many sympathisers feel the need for a flag because they feel neglected, and threatened, in the larger scheme of things in the country. There is a sense of injustice, perceived or real, which is the root cause for many in Karnataka to align with such a move. On the west, in districts bordering Maharashtra there is a fear that the dominant neighbour will overwhelm them; on the south there is an ongoing tussle with Tamil Nadu over the sharing of the Cauvery waters, and; from Delhi, in the north, there is the sense of being wronged through the imposition of Hindi — the latest of this was seen in the blackening of Hindi signboards in Bengaluru.

In a federal structure where the Centre has to ensure amicable ties among states, either New Delhi has not done enough, or it has not been seen as doing enough. Some of the differences are also because the Centre and state are governed by different political parties.

It is this sense of injustice that Siddaramaiah is trying to cash in on.

India’s strength is in its diversity and attempts to strengthen it (even if it is based on symbols like a state flag) will only strengthen the nation — to see it as a threat is to underestimate the idea of India.

With this move, politically, Siddaramaiah has showed why he is no pushover. He has played the regional card, much like the Shiv Sena/MNS’ ‘Marathi manoos’. With the state flag move, he has matched the BJP and other regional parties in their own game. It will be interesting to see how the JD(S) or BJP address this at the state level.

It has to be seen if it fetches the political mileage Siddaramaiah expects, or will it end up as hollow symbolism and fall flat.

@VijuCherian