The debate over Karnataka’s lopsided growth—where the north vies with the south over resources and development—is an old one, something expert panels have examined over the decades. But resentment over regional imbalance is rearing its head again, with outfits in the worse-off northern parts reiterating the demand for a separate state.
That demand was made in 2002 as well, says Somashekar Mahadevappa Kotambari, president of the Uttara Karnataka Pratyeka Rajya Horata Samiti, which has called a bandh in 13 districts in northern Karnataka this week to press the case. “This is a four-decade-old demand,” he tells Outlook. “The struggle will continue up to the formation of a new state.” What has ruffled feathers further, he claims, was Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s angry retort at a recent farmers’ protest over a crop loan waiver, asking why they didn’t think of him during the polls. The CM is irked by the opposition’s criticism that his budget allocations were skewed towards his party’s (JD-S) southern stronghold. But, say analysts, undertones of the stand-off reflects the disgruntlement of local leaders left out of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government. Kumaraswamy’s outburst puts partner Congress in a spot, especially in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, to many, the issue is largely about equitable development; talk of a separate state is more a pressure tactic.