Lemons, crows, chappals and the Karnataka media’s obsession with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah

And everywhere that Siddu went, the lemon was sure to go
Lemons, crows, chappals and the Karnataka media’s obsession with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
Lemons, crows, chappals and the Karnataka media’s obsession with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
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SOCIALIST CM Siddaramaiah stepped of his house in Mysuru and went about the city with a lemon in his right hand.

Thus begins the latest round of obsessive media dissection of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s atheist / secular / anti-superstition credentials.

(For the uninitiated, the use of capital letters in text equals shouting.)

Kannada news channel BTV ran a 3.50-minute news story on how the Chief Minister stepped out of his house in Mysuru’s CK Layout and went about the city holding a lemon in his right hand.

(Trivia: Although the visuals show the microphones of several television channels, the anchor says BTV has exclusive visuals of the CM waving the lemon around. The anchor however, says the CM nonchalantly talks to journalists before going on his way. Back to the news after a short break.)

Throughout the report, the anchor and the reporter discuss how Siddaramaiah could have ended up holding the lemon.

Excerpts from the anchor’s monologue on Siddaramaiah and the lemon: “… BTV has exclusive visuals… See how comfortably he talks (to the media). It’s not that he’s trying to hide it. He’s holding the lemon as he talks to the people there... No one holds the lemon for no reason. We have seen that people are given a lemon to hold after a puja or for counter evil spells. Has the Chief Minister also been given a lemon for similar reasons? Had he not believed in such things, there was no need for him to hold the lemon like that… holding that very lemon, then he’s traversed the whole length and breadth of Mysuru. The lemon was there wherever he went… The question arises: Has Siddaramaiah, who had set out to enact an anti-superstition law, begun to believe those very superstitions?”

(The channel has very thoughtfully circled the lemon in red.)  

The anchor then cuts to the reporter who will “provide viewers with more information”.  

More frame-by-frame analysis of the position of the lemon in Siddaramaiah’s hand, right hand, follows. “It is not yet confirmed whether a maulvi or a swamiji gave the lemon to Siddaramaiah but one thing is for certain.”

We will not know what that certainty is, thankfully, as audio glitches swallow up the reporter’s sage facts.

This is only the latest attempt to ascertain Siddaramaiah’s belief-status.

Just in June, some Kannada channels had gone kaa-kaa over a baby crow that refused to budge from its perch on the bonnet of the Chief Minister’s official car. For the next two days, there was a lot of crow on the menu, and then some more when the media learned that the CM had bought a new car.

In 2014, Siddaramaiah was quite annoyed when several media channels reported that he had neglected to take off his footwear for a puja during the Dasara festival. Siddaramaiah denied it, and even released a photo of his shoe-less feet attached to the rest of his body.  

The Karnataka media’s obsession with Siddaramaiah’s atheistic credentials would have been laughable, if being seen with religious leaders did not translate to votes in the state.

Five years ago, The Hindu quoted Siddaramaiah as describing himself as an atheist who only visited temples during elections so as not to hurt the feelings of those who supported him.

But perhaps the tone was set when Siddaramaiah took oath in the name of truth and not god, unlike most elected representatives who are sworn in. In an interview soon after, he told a Kannada channel that he was neither a believer nor a non-believer. By February 2015, he claimed he never said he was an atheist.

Whether or not a politician believes in god is actually irrelevant. What matters in Karnataka, however, is whether the people see you as a believer.

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