Karnataka’s dilemma: To be or not to be a part of ‘Hindi’ India
cal leader whose sphere of influence did not extend beyond his own Lingayat community. Even Yogi Adityanath proved to be a dampener. What kept BJP in the game were Modi’s energetic rallies against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s quick counters that were both witty and aggressive.
The undercurrent in Karnataka was: Should Kannada speaking voters go for status quo by siding with the Kannadiga Siddaramaiah, or should they opt for change and open the gates of South India to a “Hindi-speaking” nationalist leader who will bring in fundamental changes once BJP gets control of Karnataka?
The election had no pan-Karnataka issue. It witnessed no tsunami on the ground. Anti-incumbency against Congress wasn’t there in all the regions. In fact, the moods and issues were different in different regions. But that cultural question persisted in the minds of many voters: Why and how much to open up to this new BJP of Modi-Shah?
There was a large number of non-Kannadiga, southern “secular” players in the field who tried to ensure BJP’s defeat and help Siddaramaiah. These include not only leaders belonging to Muslim and Christian communities, but also anti-Hindi forces and political outfits who do not want the BJP form of Hindi nationalism in South India.
Congress was a divided house at the top but it had CM Siddaramaiah, who displayed enough boldness to counter the Modi-Shah duo in a psychological warfare during campaigning. He worked hard to ensure that the buzz around “anti-incumbency” against his government didn’t find much traction. While Modi came to Karnataka when the “glass half empty” narrative against his government was catching up due to farmers’ distress and economic slowdown after demonetisation and GST. However, the larger political and cultural issues of language along with Karnataka’s asmita subsumed the development and corruption issues connected to both the Central and state governments.
The undercurrent in Karnataka was Shakespearean for many voters. To be a part of Hindi India or not! Yes to the BJP of Modi-Shah will be the beginning of a new South India. Yes to Siddaramaiah will be construed as a vote for status quo.