CM Kumaraswamy takes desperate measures to curb demands for a separate North Karnataka state

by Elton Gomes

In an attempt to quell demands for a separate state of north Karnataka, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has promised that the city of Belagavi will be granted the status of second capital. Kumaraswamy has also promised that some government offices will be shifted to the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha (SVS), the secretariat building in Belagavi.

“I plan to shift one anti-graft institution (Upa Lokayukta) to Belagavi in north Karnataka. In addition, three RTI (Right to Information) Commissioners will be shifted to the region, with two to Belagavi and one to Kalaburagi for equal representation in the state,” Kumaraswamy told the media, as per an IANS report.

Kumaraswamy was clear that the JDS-Congress government coalition in Karnataka was committed to developent in the state, particularly the former Bombay Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka region. The chief minister said that there was no reason to split the state.

The battle for a separate state of north Karnataka has been ongoing since long. On July 31, the Separate State Agitation Committee announced that a flag for north Karnataka would be unveiled in Belagavi city. CM Kumaraswamy said that the media would be responsible for any untoward incident, but the Committee’s president Somashekhar Kotambari remained adamant that demands for a separate state will be realised. Kotambari invoked the negligence of successive governments and said that the flag would send out a strong message.

What is north Karnataka, and why is the region demanding a separate state?

North Karnataka, or uttar Karnataka, is a region constituting 13 districts. Out of these 13 districts, some fall within the Bombay Karnataka region.

The demand for north Karnataka goes way back, but its reasons have varied. The central reason for a separate state is the feeling that north Karnataka has been heavily neglected by Karnataka’s leaders, who have largely been from the south. Additionally, before Independence, power was concentrated in the Mysuru region, which was in north Karnataka. But after Independence, the power centre became Bengaluru.

In 2006, the JDS government in Karnataka built the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi. However, separatists have said that the building is if no use as it does not house any government offices.

The demand for north Karnataka was revived after separatist organisations accused the newly formed JDS-Congress government of ignoring the northern region in the budget. Speaking on the potential bias towards south Karnataka, Kumaraswamy said that farmers in north Karnataka remember only their “caste and money” while voting:  “While voting, they remembered their caste and money. Now, they want me to work (for them),” as per the Deccan Chronicle.  After Kumaraswamy’s remarks, separatist organisations across north Karnataka began demand a separate state once again.

What is Kumaraswamy doing?

Chief minister Kumaraswamy has said that the government will consider the proposal of declaring Belagavi the second capital of Karnataka. He added that the government will shift some departments to Suvarna Vidhana Soudha (SVS) in Belagavi.

“I intend to keep SVS active all 365 days of the year, and see that people from Kalaburagi, Belagavi, or Hubbali-Dharwad should not come to Bengaluru for every small issue,” he said, as reported by the Times of India.

Sources claim that the government is planning to shift the Karnataka Neeravari Nigama and Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Ltd and open the information commissioner’s office.

The Times of India report further mentioned that Kumaraswamy plans to tour the north Karnataka region and camp in all 13 districts to hear the issues of the people. “I will meet these people as a common man and hold meetings with officials to ensure the people get their due,” he said.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius 


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