Editor's note: The headline of this story had earlier erroneously referred to those who work against Kannadiga interests as 'non-Kannadigas.' The error is sincerely regretted.
On Sunday, the Congress government stepped up their pro-Kannada advocacy by releasing a 14-minute video on YouTube, starring Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
The video projects Siddaramaiah as the “leader and protector of Kannada people,” who sent a strict message to those from the “neighbouring states coming to Kannada Nadu."
“Our neighbours are our brothers and sisters. But if anyone attacks our language, our land or our water, it cannot be tolerated. Protecting that (Kannada land and Kannada people) is our responsibility,” the Chief Minister said in the video released by the state government.
Titled Karnataka Namma Hemme (Karnataka Our Pride), urged the Kannada people to be “proud of Kannada land, water and language in order to help develop the state”.
In the past few months, the Chief Minister, has been extremely vocal about his pro-Kannada stance. From his strongly-worded letter to the Union government on the three-language policy to ordering Bangalore Metro Rail officials to take down Hindi signs in Metro Stations, and appointing a committee to submit a report on the legalities of having a separate flag for the state, chief minister Siddaramaiah has made his stand clear.
Under the Siddaramaiah government, learning Kannada in schools was made compulsory and he had also announced that reservations must be made for Kannadigas in jobs.
The officials from the Information Department, on Sunday, uploaded the video on YouTube. The video shows Siddaramaiah as a leader concerned about Kannada language and culture.
“He started off his political career as the first president of the Kannada Kavalu Samithi in 1983, which is now the Kannada Development Authority. He has associated himself Kannada writers and has also worked on ensuring that Kannada is protected from the imposition of other languages,” the video states.
In the video, Siddaramaiah also sent out a message to the separatists who want to divide Karnataka and said that he will never allow it.
“I have associated myself with people like Devanoora Mahadeva, Dr Rajkumar and pro-Kannada activist Pa Mallesh. The struggle for the unification of Karnataka was a long and hard one. A lot of people have fought for the unification of Karnataka and now people are trying to break the state for their selfish gains which I will never allow,” Siddaramaiah said.
However, Siddaramaiah’s sudden advocacy and support for pro-Kannada groups has been seen as a strategy to counter the BJP’s campaign, but at the same time, try to break into the regional party, JD(S)’s vote bank.
According to Professor Muzaffar Assadi, by stirring the feelings of regionalism in the political discourse ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress wants to be seen as a party, which not only “cares about its Ahinda voters” but as a party which “will protect the farmers’ rights and also the language, if there is any threat to it”.
The video states that Siddaramaiah, had been a vocal proponent of Kannada since the beginning of his political career.
However, since the issue of the state flag has stirred a huge debate, the BJP has been criticising Siddaramaiah's actions, and has accused him of dividing the people of Karnataka from India for political gains.
After the video was released, Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda told reporters that the Congress was “worse than the British”. “Just like the British, who tried to divide India and rule, Siddaramaiah is doing the same,” Gowda said.