The Hindi-speaking neta now has a new tongue: Kannada

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on May 10, 2018 Published on May 10, 2018

In elections 2018, politicians see the language as a ticket to political fortunes

Delivering the Independence Day address in 2017, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah spoke of how the imposition of an alien language in a State that has its own official language is unconstitutional. His obvious reference was to the use of Hindi in metro trains and stations.

It was an indication that ‘Kannada pride’ would be a key issue in the State’s elections, which was still a long way off.

Over the last several months, politicians of all hues have crossed the Vindhyas to join the cacophony of voices in Karnataka. And suddenly, they also seem to have a tongue for Kannada.

Voices that cry themselves hoarse in the Hindi heartland are now picking up the ropes of the southern language, the most-widely spoken of many in the State. They realise that this time their dabble with Kannada could really matter.

Now, national-level office-bearers of different parties try to impress the media by greeting them in Kannada at interactions, and top leaders make efforts to deliver long lines in the language at public meetings.

While previous elections saw national leaders begin their speech with salutations in Kannada, this time around, they pepper their speeches with verses from great saints and poets of the past.

The Congress is focusing on the vachanas (verses of a few lines) of 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara — who is revered by the Lingayats — to highlight the party’s belief in communal harmony and pluralism.

In February, during his election campaign in nothern Karnataka, Congress President Rahul Gandhi quoted from Basaveshwara: “Ivanaarava, ivanaarava, ivanaaravanendu enisadirayya/Ivanammava, ivanammava, ivanammavanendu enisayya (Don’t ask who he is, accept him as our own).”

It is another matter that the pronunciation of these lines became a topic for discussion on the social media.

The Congress chief has been repeatedly using the phrase ‘nudidante nade’ (practice what you preach) to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, he claims makes hollow promises.

The BJP, too, is using the lines from Kannada literary giants to get its message across.

Alleging that the Siddaramaiah government was corrupt, Modi, at a recent public rally in Hubballi, used a line from Jnanpith awardee Da Ra Bendre’s poetry: It said: “Kurudu kanchana kuniyutalittu, kaalige biddavara tuliyutalittu (The power of money is such that it will trample all that comes in its way).

At another rally, the PM, accusing the State government of creating a communal rift in the State, said the Congress should remember the lines of Kuvempu (another Jnanpith awardee): “Jaya bharata jananiya tanujate, jayahe Karnataka mathe (Oh Mother Karnataka, daughter of Mother India, salutations to you).” Karnataka would never accept such divisive parties, the PM had said.

In fact, Modi has gone a step ahead, and concludes his rallies with the slogan: “Sarkara badalisi, BJP gellisi (Change the government, elect BJP).” The crowds at these rallies also make it a point to recite the slogan along with him.

Published on May 10, 2018
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