BANGALORE ~ For the just-concluded Assembly elections in Karnataka, the state saw a steady inflow of ‘outsiders’ in the form of central ministers, chief ministers, former ministers, former chief ministers, regional satraps, opposition leaders and so on. But how did these politicians campaign in a southern state without knowing the local language? They just spoke in whatever language they were comfortable in—Hindi, Telugu, Marathi and English—and curiously it made little difference.
“People in Karnataka are generally multilingual. In any case, as all they talk is politics, usually abusing other parties, their outbursts and pleas are easy to follow,’’ says Sridhar Achar, an organiser for a major party. National politicians also use a clever trick. They start off with one or two words in Kannada and then apologise for not knowing ‘Kannad’. They then switch to either English or Hindi, which “you all understand very well!”
For many elections now, large crowds have been congregating at Basavanagudi National College grounds in Bangalore to listen to the shudh Hindi of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharati and others of the saffron group. Actor Chiranjeevi, currently a Union minister who has been touring districts bordering Andhra Pradesh for the Congress, likes to rouse audiences with Telugu dialogues delivered in filmy style. BJP member Venkaiah Naidu also speaks in Telugu. Narendra Modi’s not-so-shudh Hindi was also well received. The mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi spoke in Hindi in rural areas and English in urban.
The only language deemed unacceptable is Tamil, which is seen as a lingua non grata due to the dispute between the two states over sharing water of the Cauvery river. Marathi is the language most people living in the region bordering Maharashtra speak. It sometimes leads to a law-and-order problem as Marathi speakers often wind up suggesting the region would have seen more development had Belgaum been a part of Maharashtra.▪