Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sent out a strong message ahead of the upcoming Karnataka Assembly election by paying tribute to a statue of 12th century Lingayat philosopher and social reformer Basaveshwara on the banks of the river Thames during his visit to the United Kingdom this week. Incidentally, it was Modi who had inaugurated the statue on his last visit to the country in 2015.
Following his visit, most English language newspapers in Karnataka displayed photographs of Modi garlanding or standing next to Basaveshwara's statue on their front pages. The newspapers reported on what the prime minister did, contrasting it with what Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah said on Basava Jayanti.
The New Indian Express had a photograph of the prime minister standing next to the statue above its lead story on the front page about what Modi said at the 'Bharat ki Baat' programme on Wednesday. However, the story does not mention anything about Modi paying tribute to the 12th century Lingayat social reformer or its implication in the 12 May polls across the state.
Similarly, Deccan Chronicle's front page lead story was on Narendra Modi's visit with a photograph of him garlanding Basaveshwara's statue. In a separate story on page 4 of the newspaper, in the bottom half of the "Pollnataka 2018" section, a story titled "Modi, Siddu vie to win over Lingayats" mentioned how Modi explained the importance of Basava Jayanti to British prime minister Theresa May.
The report states that he told her "that even before the Magna Carta was drafted, Lord Basaveshwara propagated equality for women, espoused democratic values and resolved conflicts through meaningful dialogue." The story appears below one on BJP president Amit Shah's rally in Bengaluru's Palace Grounds headlined "Shah's war cry: Will get justice for slain workers."
While the Bangalore Mirror did not mention the event on its front page, it ran a story on Modi's visit to London as the second lead on page 12, next to a story on the Kathua rape case. The report stated that the prime minister's visit to the Basaveshwara's statue "sent all the right signals" in view of the upcoming state polls. The report also quoted the head of BJP's foreign cell head, Vijay Chautiyawale, as saying that the event was planned on Wednesday, considering it marked the saint's birthday, "who propounded the idea of democracy and women empowerment". The story was accompanied with a photograph of May and Modi.
The Hindu's Bengaluru edition carried the story as its lead on page 4 (Karnataka page) about how leaders sang praises of the philosopher while skirting the "minority tag" issue. The report is accompanied with two photographs, one of Modi at the statue and the other showing Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah paying homage in Mysuru. The report noted that Modi paid homage to Basaveshwara, while focusing more on how all political leaders were careful to avoid the issue of the "religious minority" tag for the Lingayats.
The Times of India carried a small story the same event on page 10 of the newspaper, merely mentioning what Modi said, "We are so divided in India because of caste, but Lord Basaweshwara brought everyone together... we do not know enough about our history, yet people know about the Magna Carta."
Among all the English language dailies in Karnataka, Deccan Herald was the only one to make no mention of the event. The newspaper carried no story about Modi's visit on the front page but ran a short PTI report on the meeting between Modi and May on page 12.
Even Udayavani, a Kannada daily, carried only PTI reports on Modi's UK visit on its English language website.
The Basaveshwara statue installed at the Albert Embankment is not only the first statue to be unveiled by an Indian prime minister in the UK but also the first conceptual statue approved by the British Cabinet in the vicinity of the UK Parliament.
Ahead of the 2018 Karnataka Assembly election, the Lingayat issue debuted on the political stage with the Congress coming out in full support of a contentious demand from a section of the Lingayats for a separate religion tag outside of Hinduism. The move was to undercut Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) push for Hindu consolidation in the state. Lingayats/Veerashaivas are said to form about 17 percent of the population, and wield decisive clout in around 100 constituencies, particularly in north Karnataka.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2018 11:28:42 IST