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Karnataka CM plays 'son of the soil' card to corner BJP in the state

File photo of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Photograph: (Others)

Delhi, India Aug 09, 2017, 06.03 AM (IST) Kartikeya Sharma

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah seems to be hitting right chords over the past three months by pushing BJP to a corner in the state. It would be safe to say that Karnataka is the only state where BJP is facing a resurgent Congress under Siddaramaiah, who after 3 years of bad press has turned the table around and pushed BJP to the corner on issues central to the people of the state. In every other state but Karnataka, BJP has successfully used corruption, dynasty and disunity themes to marginalise the Congress. It is only in Karnataka that the state's chief minister has successfully played the ‘son of the soil’ card to push back an aggressive BJP.

It is only in Karnataka that the state's chief minister has successfully played the ‘son of the soil’ card to push back an aggressive BJP.
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Whether it his position on the language or the flag, the sentiments which the CM has evoked is that of a person who cares intensely about the cultural landscape of the state. He has also shown an inclination to implement a new cultural policy which would be dedicated to promoting local cinema and literature. The policy is also inclusive. It also entails local harmony cells. It also intends to curb moral policing which has become a scourge in some of the state ruled by BJP where the male aggressor is always imagined as a minority. The state also intends to set aside a sum of money to promote local artists. People may dismiss it as populist or superficial, but for a state with the rich history of literary culture and modern aspiration, Siddaramaiah has taken the right step.
            
Many can still accuse Siddaramaiah of pushing state level chauvinism but if you look all across India, successful chief ministers have been the ambassadors of the state pride and have successfully positioned themselves as the custodian of culture and political pride of their respective regions as opposed to the Centre. Whether it is a resurgence of TDP in united Andhra or TRS of Telangana or BJD of Orissa, all of them represent unique political aspirations of the state within the Indian democratic setup.

The concept of undivided Hindi vote is an accepted academic and political jargon then exceptional Kannadiga linguistic pride too shouldn’t bother the Indian right.
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Nitish Kumar, when opposed to the BJP, won Bihar on the issue of Bihari asmita. For Mamata, it was 'Ma Maati and Maanush'. Similarly, the Karnataka chief minister has very successfully deployed the son of the soil culture card, which is laced with the sensitivity attached to the language.

Though polishing off Hindi names from metro and railway station is extreme but if seen through the prism of sending a message to the electorate then the job has been done. It is like saying that if the concept of undivided Hindi vote is an accepted academic and political jargon then exceptional Kannadiga linguistic pride too shouldn’t bother the Indian right. It is expected of them to oppose it from the position of nationalism but they understand that such politics is replete with danger. It can get TV eye balls in Delhi, but will definitely cut votes in Karnataka.

For BJP to win it, will have to come down from the issue of corruption as Siddaramaiah has changed the rule of the game.
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If BJP wants to fight the elections against Siddaramaiah then it will have to intelligently focus on meatier issues rather than using the department of income tax and Central Bureau of Investigation liberally. For BJP to win, it will have to come down from the issue of corruption as Siddaramaiah has changed the rule of the game. Karnataka, this time too, might keep up with its reputation of voting against the national trend. It will also reaffirm how important prominent regional faces are which Congress today finds bereft of. A lot of people might not like Karnataka CM in Delhi, but he is the only one who can take the might of an aggressive BJP in the country.
  
Siddaramaiah might have lost the earlier rounds by generating bad press in Bengaluru, but the canny old politician seems to have learned his lesson well, namely, publically associating with issues which are central to the Kannadiga pride and making other issues irrelevant. Lastly, he has an added advantage in Karnataka: he neither has the baggage of a Laloo type of a politician nor internal bickering which is jeopardising BJP's prospect in the state.

Kartikeya Sharma

Kartikeya Sharma is Political Editor at WION. When he is not working, you will find him travelling, reading or cooking.

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