The Congress government in Karnataka has decided to accept a state flag proposed and designed by a 9-member committee constituted by the state Kannada and Culture department. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who met a delegation of Kannada activists at his office on Thursday morning, displayed the red, white and yellow flag proposed to be used as the official state flag in the event of its acceptance by the Union Government. He said the state had accepted the proposed flag to be the official flag in place of an unofficial red and yellow flag that is currently used in the state to signify local pride.
The move to accept a separate flag for the state is seen as a strategy adopted by the Congress and Siddaramaiah to tap into local Kannada pride ahead of the state assembly polls.
If adopted with clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Karnataka will be the second state after Kashmir to have an official state flag. Karnataka has had an unofficial state flag since the mid-1960s when pro-Kannada groups, including the veteran activist Vatal Nagaraj, were agitating against the screening of non-Kannada films in the state. The red and yellow unofficial flag was created by Kannada writer and activist Ma Ramamurthy for a pro-Kannada political party called the Kannada Paksha. This unofficial flag is flown every year on November 1, Karnataka’s foundation day, and is a common sight at public spaces in the state.
The move for creation of an official state flag began with a request made in 2014 by Patil Puttappa, a 96-year-old veteran journalist and Kannada activist, and Bheemappa Gundappa, a 56-year-old RTI activist, to the Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah – a former chairman of Kannada protection committee which was the pre-cursor to the current Kannada Development Authority.
On June 6, 2017 the Kannada and Culture Department set up of a nine-member panel to examine the feasibility and legal issues around the demand. The setting up of the panel resulted in a controversy with the opposition BJP accusing the Congress of subverting the national flag to whip up local pride in the run up to the state assembly elections of 2018.
“Karnataka already has an official state song and there is a feeling that there is nothing wrong in having a state flag. A state flag will not disrupt the unity and integrity of the country and will not reduce the stature of the national flag. The national flag will always fly higher than the state flag, there are no two ways about it. Most importantly, the Constitution of India does not ban such flags,” the Karnataka chief minister said last year.
The opposition BJP in Karnataka has in the past accorded official status to the unofficial state flag.
In 2012, Karnataka’s BJP government under chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda accorded official status to the state flag through a notification making the hoisting of the state flag on government buildings, schools and colleges mandatory on the occasion of the state formation day. The notification was withdrawn after the Karnataka High Court raised questions on the legality of states having their own flags when the law permitted only the national flag to be flown officially.