Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa - the BJP's tallest leader in the south -- on Monday said a firm "no" to party chief Amit Shah's push for popularising the use of Hindi as a common language across the country, which has revived the decades-old uniformity versus diversity debate. The southern states have traditionally resisted the exclusive use of Hindi, seeing it as a cultural imposition by north Indians. This time, the opposition Congress and the Left have also joined the fray.
"As far as Karnataka is concerned, Kannada is the principal language. We will never compromise its importance," Mr Yediyurappa said in a tweet, reflecting the popular sentiment in the state.
All official languages in our country are equal. However, as far as Karnataka is concerned, #Kannada is the principal language. We will never compromise its importance and are committed to promote Kannada and our state's culture.— CM of Karnataka (@CMofKarnataka) September 16, 2019
Karnataka regularly witnesses assertion of identity by pro-Kannada organisations. In face of a growing demand for job reservation for locals, the new Chief Minister recently said Kannadigas must get the "lion's share" of jobs in the state.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was among the first to speak up against Mr Shah's views, declaring a tweet that the claim that "Hindi unifies our country is absurd".
"That language is not the mother tongue of a majority of Indians. The move to inflict Hindi upon them amounts to enslaving them. Union Minister's statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-hindi speaking people," his tweet read.
On Monday, actor politician Kamal Haasan took a swipe at Amit Shah. "Unity in diversity is a promise we made when India became a republic. Now no Shah, Sultan or Samrat should renege on that promises," he had said.
Senior Left leader Sitaram Yechury said it was the idea of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- the ideological mentor of the BJP "to impose Hindi as the national language".
"RSS ideology is one nation, one language, and one culture, which is not acceptable," said Mr Yechury was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
As the country marked Hindi Diwas on Saturday, Mr Shah had tweeted suggesting a wider use of Hindi as a common language.
"India is a country of many different languages, and each language has its own significance, but it is necessary to have a common language that becomes the mark of India's identity globally... Today, if there is one language that has the ability to string the nation together in unity, it is the Hindi language which is the most widely-spoken and understood language in India," his tweet read.
Currently, the schools in the country adhere to a three-language system in which English, Hindi and a regional language is taught.
Clarifying the Centre's stand, Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda said Hindi will not "boss over" other regional languages of country. "The three-language formula is accepted by us all. Even Prime Minister spoke on the floor of the House that all regional languages will be respected," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.