Politics
“We can have a cultural flag, but Constitutionally we can have only one flag, which is the national flag or the tricolour,” CT Ravi said.

The BJP government in Karnataka has now stated that it will not entertain the proposal for a state flag. Minister for Kannada and Culture, CT Ravi told the media that the government has no intention of having a separate state flag.

“We can have a cultural flag, but Constitutionally we can have only one flag, which is the national flag or the tricolour. Hence, the government will not pursue the issue of a state flag,” CT Ravi said.

Reacting strongly to CT Ravi’s statement, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dinesh Gundu Rao said that the government’s decision was an insult to the self-respect of Kannadigas. “Upon the demand from various Pro-Kannada activists, a proposal for a separate state flag was sent to the Union government. Just to please certain people, it is not right to hurt the sentiments of Kannadigas,” Dinesh Gundu Rao said.

The separate state flag was a flagship project undertaken by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. In May 2018, just a few days before the Karnataka Assembly Elections, Siddaramaiah had held a press conference and unveiled the design for the new state flag.

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, too, called out CT Ravi on his statement and said that there is no Constitutional provision that bars a state from having a flag of its own.

“Have we not accepted our state anthem? Has that, in any way, insulted our National Anthem? We just have to hoist other flags below the national flag and that will be our responsibility. Many Kannada activists, including Dr Patil Puttappa, had insisted for a state flag. Expert committee studied the same and designed the flag which was submitted to the Central government for its approval. But now the state government is opposing the same. This should be condemned,” Siddaramaiah said.

Siddaramaiah had accepted the demands of pro-Kannada activists who had demanded that a state flag must be introduced. He had formed an expert committee to look into the legal provisions of whether the state can have a separate flag. The nine-member committee also came up with a design for the state flag. The committee had recommended a yellow, red and white flag with the state’s emblem ‘Gandaberunda’ – the two-headed mythological bird – in the middle.

In May 2018, the Karnataka government had sent the proposal for a state flag, that was unanimously passed by the state cabinet for the Union’s approval. The government had also requested the Union to include the proposed flag in the schedule of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1950.

At the time, Siddaramaiah had said the flag symbolises Kannada pride. However, the BJP had accused the then Congress government of springing the issue of a separate flag for electoral gains. 

In May 2018, the Union Home Ministry put the proposal on hold as the election code of conduct was in place. The issue had been shelved ever since and the Congress-JD(S) coalition government had not made any attempts to revive the movement for a separate flag.

The history of Karnataka flag

In 1965, Ma Ramamurthy, the son of freedom fighter Veerakesari Seetharama Shastri, designed a red and yellow flag with the map of Karnataka on it. The flag was used to symbolise the interests of Kannadigas and the need to protect the language.

Ma Ramamurthy’s flag became the official flag of the political party Kannada Paksha, which he founded in 1965. However, the party did not last long. It was after this that the red and yellow flag became the unofficial flag of Karnataka. The yellow and red colours signify peace and courage. 

This unofficial flag is also hoisted during the ceremonies held to celebrate Kannada Rajyotsava on November 1 each year. The new flag was designed as the Kannada Paksha flag could not be adopted as the official state flag.

The BJP’s opposition

This is not the first time the BJP has opposed the demand for a separate state flag. During the BJP rule in 2012 in the state, the government had turned down a proposal for a separate state flag. At the time, the BJP government had stated that such a demand was against the unity and integrity of India. 

When the Siddaramaiah government had sent the proposal to the Centre in 2018, the Union Home Ministry had then said, "We are one nation, one flag. Legally there is no provision either for providing or prohibiting a separate flag for any state.”