news Monday, October 27, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | October 17, 2014 | 8.48 pm IST Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah appears to have achieved the impossible: he got Belgaum renamed as Belgavi, putting a Kannada stamp on the region which is claimed by Maharashtra. The union home ministry’s approval comes after the polls in Maharashtra are over, thus giving the BJP government at the centre as much of an edge as it gives the ruling Congress in Karnataka.  The proposal or rename Belgaum as Belgavi is not a new one and is one of 12 names sought to be changed by state government to make the English spelling to suit the Kannada pronunciation of the names. Read: With BJP at the centre, will Belgaum’s name change to Belgavi be approved? The proposal to rename Belgaum as Belgavi has been around since N Dharam Singh’s tenure as chief minister. H D Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) had also sent a proposal during his tenure as chief minister, but on both occasions the union home ministry had rejected the proposals as Maharashtra has also staked a claim on it and the Supreme Court is hearing a case. Approval from the centre has earned Siddaramaiah some amount of goodwill among pro-Kannada groups and literary figures in the state. Language is an emotive issue for many groups and both the ruling Congress in Karnataka and the BJP at the centre stand to gain from the move. On the two occasions that the Congress and JD (S)-BJP coalition governments had sent the proposal, it was the UPA government which had rejected the state’s proposal. Karnataka had pushed for the re-naming of 12 places on the grounds that English names needed to reflect the Kannada pronunciations. With Belgaum to officially become Belgavi, Karnataka’s claim on the border areas is strengthened, and is also a message to groups demanding integration with Maharashtra that Karnataka is serious about its claim.  There is a feeling in Karnataka that in comparison with other southern states, especially Tamil Nadu, linguistic pride is less among Kannada speakers, who often compare themselves to Tamil speakers, many of whom reside in the state’s capital.  The chief minister too had recently said that Kannadigas must have more pride in their language and that they must learn from Tamilians who had more pride in their language. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling stating that the state government could not impose Kannada as the medium of education in all schools, was also a blow to the government as it has not yet been able to come up with a suitable response.

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