Bengaluru: Activists in north Karnataka on Wednesday renewed their demands for a separate state, alleging that they were not being adequately represented in the state cabinet and their concerns were not met in 5 July budget presented by chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy.
Somashekar Kotambari, president of the Uttara Karnataka Horata Samithi, called for a bandh across 13 districts in the region. The protests have added to the troubles of the barely three-month-old coalition government led by Kumaraswamy.
“We will meet intellectuals and littérateurs, and launch an intensified agitation demanding for the creation of a separate state," Kotambari said at a press conference in Hubballi.
The demands for separate statehood comes at a time when Kumaraswamy and his coalition government, which has been criticised for focusing only on south Karnataka, considered more prosperous and politically significant, are yet to find their foothold after the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress joined hands to rule the state to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a chance to add Karnataka to its long list of electoral conquests.
Incidentally, the regional imbalance was highlighted by several Congress legislators who had successfully contested the 12 May assembly polls. Many calling the 5 July state budget as a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike budget, referring that it had focused most of its resources for the southern part of the state.
Though the JD(S) has its support base concentrated on the south, from where it gets its maximum number of seats, its coalition partner, the Congress has the most to lose in the north, where it has significant presence, especially in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Kumaraswamy had brushed off earlier demands by various activists and seers in recent weeks, but the calls for a separate statehood has only intensified and grown louder.
The two divisions of the north, Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka, which has the second most arid regions in the country, have been unable to cope with the regional imbalance condoned by successive governments in the state, irrespective of party.
Kumaraswamy made matters worse by mocking these demands at a rally in Channapatna on Monday. “They want a separate state. Take it, lets see what happens," Kumaraswamy had said, which is likely to have reinvigorated the campaign.
BJP leader B. Sriramulu, who is a close aide of former iron ore mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy, had even raised these concerns on the floor of the legislative assembly, conveying it as the sentiments of the people from the region. However, he apologised for his statements on the same day.