Do Tamilians have more asmita than Kannadigas?

PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: It is three weeks since the results of the assembly elections in the five States tumbled out, signalling change in four States (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal and Pondicherry) and continuity in one (Assam).

Of the many post-facto buzzwords that I have heard on TV since May 13, one word stands out: asmita.

Asmita, loosely translating into pride.

Asmita, loosely meaning self-respect, self-esteem.

Several times over the last three weeks, the Janata Party gadfly Subramanian Swamy has invoked the A-word to drive home the presumed wisdom of the Tamil voter in kicking out the DMK family concern of M. Karunanidhi, and in ushering in Jayalalitha‘s AIADMK.

Dr Swamy’s point: the Tamil voter, urban and rural, was angry and disgusted with the bad image that the 2G scam that (as of now) is mostly populated with Tamil protagonists (A. Raja, Kanimozhi, Sadik Batcha and now Dayanidhi Maran, C. Sivashankaran & Co ) and Tamil outfits (Kalaignar TV, Sun TV) was bringing to the reputation of Tamil Nadu and Tamilians.

In other words, the Tamil asmita was in danger.

So, goes Dr Swamy’s reasoning, in spite of the elitist belief that country bumpkins are more tolerant of corruption, Tamilians voted to restore their asmita. And, by extension, have managed to do a damn good job of it by stumping pundits and pollsters and consigning DMK to less than a 10th of the size of the Tamil Nadu assembly.

The scoreline: Asmita 1, Arrogance 0.

Compelling as Dr Swamy’s contention is, the invocation of asmita—an oft-used word in the political vocabulary of the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi—has left me both confused and angry. And, frankly, as a proud Kannadiga, I have been tearing my hair out.

Reason: if the 2G scam and the accumulated loot was cause enough for Tamils to boot out the DMK in the name of their asmita, how come Kannadigas seem to be so much more insouciant of B.S. Yediyurappa‘s BJP government which has had more scams and scandals in its three years in office, albeit not of the same size?

How is it that Kannadiga asmita seems be unaffected by all the puerile antics of the BJP on display in the last three years—Operation Kamala, the resort and spa politics, the mining mafia, the rigged up confidence motions, the roadside dramas, the shameless samaveshas, the sex scandals of ministers, their financial transgressions, the church attacks, the attacks on pub-going girls—and all of it playing endlessly on televison?

And how is it that Kannadigas seem to hide their asmita and vote for the BJP in election after byelection, to the assembly, to the civic bodies, to the gram and zilla panchayats? On the day Karunanidhi was being booted out, the BJP was winning three by-polls held on the rotting carcass of Operation Kamala?

What do so such BJP election victories in the face of BJP non-performance tell us?

That the Kannadiga voter—numbed by silly TV megaserials—has lost the ability to think?

That the rural Kannadiga voter is wiser than we urban, educated Kannadigas think?

That she is is unaware of the damage that three years of BJP rule has caused to the image and reputation of Kannadigas and Karnataka on the national and global stage?

To Karunanidhi’s credit, at least his government could boast of some semblance of governance. Tamil Nadu ranks high on most indices and is easily among India’s developed States. Yediyurappa’s only achievements are in the mighty advertisements his government releases to keep the media happy.

So, what accounts for the easy run BJP is getting, around a mountain of corruption and comical inefficiency that it has erected in the “Gateway to the South”? Is it simply that Kannadiga asmita is unmoved and unattracted by the kind of alternative that the Congress and JDS present?

Or has “progressive” Karnataka been collectively brain-washed? Has it entered the hallucinatory Hindutva zone as Gujarat, whose denizens too seem completely blase about the damage that Modi’s regime is causing to the image of Gujarat and Gujaratis on the national and global scene?

Is it just possible, to take Subramanian Swamy’s argument forward, is it just possible that Tamilians value their asmita more than us, Kannadigas?

Or them, Gujaratis?

File photograph: The daughters and daughters-in-law of chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa perform arathi on him, after he won the vote of confidence in the legislative assembly, in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)


Also read: Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t we Indians?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

GAURI LANKESH: How Karnataka is becoming Gujarat of South

ARAVIND ADIGA: A 21st century Adiga’s appeal to Kannadigas

CHETAN BHAGAT: Chetan Bhagat has some advice for Lingayats

SANTOSH HEGDE: BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people


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38 Responses to “Do Tamilians have more asmita than Kannadigas?”

  1. Po Says:

    I don’t think there is any ‘asmita’ associated with the Tamil Nadu election results. They flip flop between DMK and AIADMK every time irrespective of 2G scams happen or not.
    And talking about Karnataka who else would they vote for? corrupt congress or dull headed deve gowda?

  2. Ruchik Doshi Says:

    Extremely arrogant , self serving article,,that is the problem with the NGO types; use democracy when it suits you;

  3. Deepak Says:

    Ayyo paapa!! Prashant Krishanmurthy being a card holder of the Congress is naturally sick and disgusted about the popularity of the BJP!! It is understable, poor chap, he is not to be criticised but only pitied.

    Again in the next elections, neither Kannadigas nor Gujaratis will care about Asmita, and continue to vote for BJP and poor Krishnamurthy may have to consider migrating to other lands where there is Asmita to be found!!!

  4. Alok Says:

    Subramanium Swamy? Really??

    A whole piece based on a single statement by Subramanium Swamy?

    But back to reality.

    It is easy for urban voters to focus on corruption of the BSY Govt., because the last few governments have done nothing but take care of our other concerns, be it roads, water, electricity or the Metro. Some done better than others perhaps, but the point is that the urban voter in Bengaluru, always has a say in the governance of the State irrespective of the party in power or the corruption levels of the same.

    It is crude snobbery to berate people who don’t see the whole world through your eyes. To state that the rural voter, just because they don’t share the same world view as the urban voter, lacks dignity, pride and self-respect is appalling elitism.

    The problem for both the urban and rural voter is the complete lack of alternative from the present dispensation. Since 2004, we have seen nothing but misgovernance, corruption and malfeasance in public office. And yet, almost all the major parties have been in power for at least a couple of years in this period.

  5. Sankar Says:

    The real reason why MK family is shown the door by the TN people is not because of corruption or 2G. We have seen it with every politician. The real reasons are:

    1) Power cut (about 3 hours powercut everywhere in the state when the capital Chennai didnt face any powercut) In villages it was even more severe. When farmers didn’t get current for irrigation, chennai-tes were busy updating facebook in an air-conditioned room.

    2) MK Family strangling the TN film industry: Every film getting released in TN was from the MK family. They strangled other producers and actors and tried to create monopoly. They forced actors to act in their movies including big stars like Vijay. This stuck a sensitive area in TN voter mindset. BTW, these Mk family producers were just 20-somethings and dont even have a full mustache yet ;-)

    3) In short, it is MK’s family that let him down even though he had done some good things like the ambulance service, common education, etc.

    It is the English media that assumes that corruption is the reason why MK lost and tries to project it.

  6. dinesh Pandian Says:

    Actually voters in TN had opted for More freebies announced by JJ. aSMITA ENU ILLA.

  7. srivaid Says:

    Have to agree with Alok above. There have been no alternatives. At least the BJP tries to put up a cohesive face and one CM. With the Congress you have alternatives like Siddaramaiah or DK Shivakumar, while efficient politicians like SMK/Moily have moved to Delhi. Makes you wonder why Cong doesn’t do too well in the states?

    And then there’s JD(S). Now, let’s not even go there….

  8. twistleton Says:

    Asmita = Anti-incumbency??

  9. NN Says:

    Reason is inspite of so many scandals this is still a change for better than Gowdas and Dharam Singhs and any of the others who are likely to replace BJP.

    As for Gujarat there is far less corruption and lot more development under Modi and apparently people don’t seem to be caring much about the so called Image that is getting spoiled by Modi and BJP

  10. kingfisher Says:

    suggest we outsource our leader from Russia to rule Karnataka, only then we believe our state is being ruled by a competent authority. we Indians have always been at our best being led by an outsider, and look up to being ruled. British monarchy had its chance, an European nation is in the process, its time Russians exercise their right to rule.

    Adjust madkothivi parvagilla! namgen agbekri, yaradru barli, namde namge nam mane clean agi iddre saaku, . Bekidre Karunanidhi nu barli, namm ooru irade adakke allva.

  11. Sanjeeva Says:

    The article is just yak, yak, ‘bakwas’. However, as far as “Asmita” is concerned, I can only quote Master Hirannayya, who says in one of his dramas : “Tamilaru theevrabhimanigalu, malayaligalu, swabhimanigalu, telugaru, atmabhimanigalu…… Hagadare Kannadigaru? Avaroo abhimanigale – “nirabhimanigalu”.

  12. Desi Babu Says:

    As someone from the north of the “Indian Mason-Dixon line”, (as shown in the previous post of the boiled bean map of India), I am quite intrigued. Specially as a “Bihari”, at all the “Madrasis” fighting with each other — over Asmita. Who is she anyways, any relation to Sushmita? :-)

    I think all of India is slowly gravitating towards good governance, and corruption is beginning to become an issue, which is why every politician is running scared. DMK was kicked out because of anti incumbency and corruption. We will see what happens to Yeddy at election time, but, the alternatives like Deve Gowda and family and Congress (Aye, Aye Ma’am), are more scary.

    I am no fan of Narendra Modi, but, even to a not so bright person like me, the comments about him seem extremely biased. I don’t know much about the writer, but if he is a journalist, he should try to be fair.
    Like journalists are supposed to be.

  13. senthil Says:

    Asmita itself is maya.. the yediyurappa case is more of political..

  14. Simple Says:

    1.One need not read too much into by elections. Local candidates, local incumbency and local factors come into play.

    2. The last significant victory for BJP in Karnataka was the Pancyath election. But dig a little deeper and you will realise that the victory of BJP was not thumping enough as that of Congress or JDS when it was in power.

    Whichever party is in power, reaps a rich harvest at the panchayat, but BJP barely managed to squeak through. These are strong indications that BJP is in trouble.

    3. All other previous victories of BJP were prior to the scams breaking out. And that being a honeymoon period, voters were generally tolerant for the first couple of years.

    So really. It is not tue, that Kannadigas have no asmita. Wait for the next assembly election, to realise what i mean. More so, if there is an alliance between JDS and Cong, the saffron party is going to be wiped out of existence.

  15. Says:

    Churumuri had to do this. No difference between Churumuri and the hopeless opposition in Karnataka.

    If at all Mr. Swamy is to be considered seriously, why don’t Prashant ask for a thorough inquiry into Swamy’s allegations of the Congress mother?

  16. CrackPOTS Says:


  17. the colonel Says:

    can all of us just shutup and think of a better life for all.

    It’s time.

  18. the colonel Says:

    Analysis on corruption in India does not address its cultural aspect. We see nothing peculiar about corruption in India (except that it is everywhere). We see many corrupt individuals in a system unable to correct itself. Our media reports corruption episodically. One independent incident of greed follows another. Let us set all that aside and look at it differently. No race can be congenitally corrupt. But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know why Indians are corrupt let’s look elsewhere.

    What patterns and practices distinguish us?

    The First Point :

    Religion is transactional in India. We give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward. Our plea acknowledges we aren’t really deserving. The cash compensates for our lack of merit. In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction has a name: “bribe”. In India God accepts cash from us, not good work, for which there is no reward. We don’t expect something from God in return for sweeping our neighbourhood streets. We go with money.

    Observe this in another way. Why does the wealthy Indian give not cash to temples, but gold crowns and such baubles? To ensure his gift isn’t squandered on feeding the poor. Our pay-off is for God. It’s wasted if it goes to man. See what this has produced. In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs. 45 crore to Tirupati. According to the temple’s website, Tirupati got 3,200kg silver and 2.4kg of diamonds in just one year. The temple encourages such giving, according to a report in The Telegraph in April 2010. Those who gifted a kilo of gold, worth over Rs. 21 lakh, got “VIP darshan” (which means cutting the queue) of the idol.

    In 2007, Vellore’s Sripuram temple was built with 1,500kg of gold. By weight alone it is worth Rs. 325 crore. In May 2010, according to The Economic Times, 1,075kg of gold was deposited by Tirupati with the State Bank of India (SBI) for safe keeping. In 2009, 500kg was deposited with the Indian Overseas Bank. In June 2004, Business Standard reported that Tirupati couldn’t melt down 8,000kg of gifted gold ornaments because devotees had stuck precious stones to their gift. This 8 tonnes of metal, worth Rs. 1,680 crore but actually useless, was gathering dust in temple vaults.

    On 11 February, according to The Hindu Business Line, 1,175kg of gold was deposited with SBI, and the temple trustees had yet another 3,000kg of gold handy. What will they do with all this metal? Gold-plate the walls of the temple (lending new meaning to the phrase “India Shining”). This work was halted by the Andhra Pradesh high court in December. Not because it was wasteful – such things aren’t vulgar to Indians – but because it might have damaged wall inscriptions. India’s temples collect so much of this stuff they don’t know what to do with it.
    In February, 17 tonnes of silver, worth Rs. 117 crore, was found in an Odisha temple. The priests say they had no idea it was even there. But the devotee keeps giving. Tirupati alone gets between 800kg (The Economic Times’ estimate) and 1,825kg (The Telegraph’s estimate) of gold a year. When God accepts money in return for his favours, what is wrong with my doing the same thing? Nothing. This is why Indians are so easily corruptible. Our culture accommodates such transactions morally. This is key. There is no real stigma. The demonstrably corrupt Indian leader can harbour hope of a comeback, unthinkable in the West.
    Our moral ambiguity towards corruption is also visible in our history.

    The second point:

    Any number of books on Indian history tells us of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were paid off to open gates, and commanders paid off to surrender. This is unique to India. We read of battles won after battalions evaporated. Our corrupt nature has limited warfare on the subcontinent. It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared to ancient Greece and modern Europe. The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish.

    In India fighting wasn’t needed, bribing was usually enough to see off our armies. The invader willing to spend a bit of cash always brushed aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands peopled their infantry. Little battle was given at the “Battle” of Plassey. Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000.

    There was always a financial solution to taking our forts.

    Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open. In 1700, the fort of Parli, west of Satara, the headquarters of the Maratha government, fell after it took a bribe from Aurangzeb. In 1701, Aurangzeb invested the Panhala fort for two months without success. Then he bribed the Maratha commandant Trimbak, who let the Mughals in.

    Aurangzeb took the forts at Wardhangarh, Nandgir, Wandan and Chandan without fighting. Khelna fought the Mughals (led by the mercenary Sawai Rajputs of Amber) superbly till commandant Parshuram accepted his bribe and gave up the fort.

    According to The Cambridge History of India, Torna was the only fort captured in that long campaign without bribes. Allahabad was taken by the Mughals in April 1720 when Girdhar Bahadur left the gates open after being promised governorship of Awadh. The same year Asir opened its gates to Nizam-ul-Mulk after a bribe. The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after a bribe. Shivaji took Kondhana (which he renamed Sinhagad) after the Mughal commander was bribed. The Mughals lost Penukonda to the Marathas in 1706 after the commandant was paid off.

    We must understand that this isn’t one man bribed alone. He must share that money with his officers, who must in turn pass it along to the infantry and cavalry. Everyone participated in this treason.

    Question is: Why do we have a transactional culture while civilized nations don’t? The answer is that we haven’t learnt to trust one another as Europeans have. Indians do not buy the theory that we can all rise if each of us behaves morally, because that is not the message of our faith.

    And the third point:

    Our faith assures us that God will deliver for us individually, but we must deliver to him too. When Europeans came here they built schools (there were zero schools in Gujarat before Mountstuart Elphinstone built the first 10 in the 1820s). When we go to Europe we build more temples. Patels alone have built 12 Swaminarayan temples in Britain. Unfortunately, the European is tolerant and the Indian quite shameless, though it’s true also that he’s unaware of what he’s doing. He’s practising his magic in a culture where it isn’t needed. He doesn’t need God’s favours in a society that isn’t corrupt, that is moral, that is equal. Analysis on corruption in India does not address its cultural aspect. We see nothing peculiar about corruption in India (except that it is everywhere). We see many corrupt individuals in a system unable to correct itself. Our media reports corruption episodically. One independent incident of greed follows another. Let us set all that aside and look at it differently. No race can be congenitally corrupt. But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know why Indians are corrupt let’s look elsewhere. What patterns and practices distinguish us?

    All he needs is hard work, which he’s quite capable of giving.

    Some might say the doctrine of our faith doesn’t support this behaviour. That shouldn’t concern us here. We’re talking about its practice, the way we do religion, rather than its philosophy, which is ultimately meaningless.

    We are up against everyone else, except God – and even he must be bribed.

  19. 3kha Says:

    Brilliant comment, Colonel!

  20. Sankar Says:

    Colonel, the best comment I’ve ever read in churumuri. Absolutely Brilliant.

  21. Simple Says:



  22. ag Says:

    Colonel’s comment is plagiraised word for word from Aakar Patel’s column in Mint – please see here

    Do not take credit for what doesn’t belong to you.

  23. Nastika Says:

    @3kha, @Sankar & @Simple,
    I guess you would want to thank the colonel for sharing and not for commenting.

  24. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Good catch ag.


    Your plagiarism seems to be a good example of what Aakar Patel is writing about. A simple link would have done instead of the unattributed cut and paste.

    Maybe you should write more about corruption in the Indian army today from first hand experience…

  25. shankar Says:

    @ag – thx for the heads up.

    Irony is that Colonel , who is pontificating here on corruption is himself so corrupt that he has to lift comments word to word from some one else, without acknowledging the source. Shameless is all I can say .


  26. Gaby Says:

    The Colonel’s comment isnt copied word to word. He has left out the penultimate sentence in the originbal article about our Hobbesian inclinations:)

  27. karihaida Says:

    Right to bear arms will go a long way in this ‘corruption’ matter …

  28. Aruna Says:

    aarti yettiro kalla manjanigay…..

  29. Sankar Says:

    Thanks to the people who investigated and found the original link :-)

  30. Nastika Says:

    Ever heard of a rant on plagiarism being plagiarized?

    This is it. The irony is, the colonel in the process of exposing the cheating history, himself cheated.

  31. Anonymous Guy Says:


    You mean the Bihar way?

  32. Rastrakoota Says:

    @ Colonel

    Oorigella Upachara Mane mundhe brindhavana types huh! Man, I have been reading your comments, felt it was lifted even before ag gave us all the heads up!! Great Job ag:-)

    Your comments seem almost Prophetic in most of the posts you have commented upon . Actualy you shud stop ranting in such a lengthy way on just abt anything!!! May peace be upon u.

  33. Doddi ionBuddi Says:

    Dear All,

    Tamilians “Freebiemanigalu”. As usual the writer of this column is peddling some arrant nonsense. Frankly, the corruption by Yeddi and co is baby steps when compared to Jathi Dala Sangha (JDS) and Congress types. Do I condone corruption by Yeddi? Of course not but to pretend ostrich-like that his government is corrupt is total nonsense. Sisya wrote JDS and Congree tie up will see out BJP. Well Sisya, here is news for you: Yeddi won the by elections because people saw some merit in his governance. The city folk that the duffer Krishna was a good CM but never bothered to understand how corrupt he was–doling out land to Infy, corruption and so on. I like Yeddi because we never had a problem with rains ever since he took over and I attribute this to his humbug worshiping ways and so on. But the man looks very dapper in his suit never mind the kumkuma clad cloying smile that gives away his native cunning! Go yeddi!

  34. Murthy Says:

    Naive writer.
    What does he have to say about Kanimozhi , Raja, Maran , DMK – the family which floats from himalayas to kanyakumari ,
    Support Prabhakaran, LTTE , Veerappan as robinhoods , but join Congress Kai(I) for money , wanting Sri Lankan script to be the de facto standard although their capital chennai itself is a Kannada word – chennapattana.

    Sick people and mentality.

    I think you are bordercase Tamilian who profess Kannada came from Tamil watching Tamil serials and sops and reading Tamil porn.

  35. rajendran Says:

    How about you murthy, always piling a heap of nonsense & rubbish against your fellow neighbours. Writer is way better than your good maarrnnnninnnng sir standards.

    Where were you all these days murthy, nothing instigated you all these days to post your ramblings in churumuri. Waiting for the moment right??

    Support Prabhakaran, LTTE , Veerappan as robinhoods , but join Congress Kai(I) for money , wanting Sri Lankan script to be the de facto standard although their capital chennai itself is a Kannada word – chennapattana.

    Sick people and mentality. ==> Its sick to see you write such comments.

  36. the colonel Says:

    dear AG:

    i appologize for not exercising due diligence. this was a message in my email that i sent to all of you.

    i did not know that their were further posts; i would have surely replied earlier.

    This came in my e-mail and i sent it to all of you:-

    Every Indian would like to THINK about this.

    Subject: Fwd: More than Fort Knox ??— India Shining!……….. A novel

    Some would say this is absolutely spot-on!! But if you accept this view – I
    guess no Lok Paal is ever going to make the slightest dent …

    Who is the author, and where was this published?

    Our gold-plated culture of corruption!!
    >>Analysis on corruption in India does not address its cultural aspect. We
    >>see nothing peculiar about corruption in India (except that it is everywhere).
    and in the end

    The way we do it is Hobbesian. We are up against everyone else, except God – and
    even he must be bribed.


    Now see the line “Who is the author, and where was this published?”

    Yes i did a copy and paste ; and an assumption was made by all of you that these are my words. When it was not implied. And i appologize for them

    Yes i did a copy and paste ; For three emails; and posted them; and they have their names of the authors are in two of them: the third did not have any.

    YES the FAULT is MINE: But No i did not Plagiarise. the emphasis is not that capitals is shouting but the capitals are for my fault.

  37. karihaida Says:

    yup. We all have to go the Bihar way (but with free and open access to arms) to become better. There is no ‘might’ when you have the right ‘caliber’ :)

  38. Faldo Says:

    I would like to comment on Aakar Patel’s article that has appeared on several comments in this post. In my opinion the article takes a few liberties with history to prove a point about our tolerance to corruption. For instance, it is well known that Kondana fort later renamed as Sinhagad, was conquered after a fierce battle by the Marathas. Several accounts mention that Tanaji who led this attack was supposed to have scaled the cliffs over which the fort was built using monitor lizards along with a small band of soldiers, gained access and opened the gates so the rest of the army could mount an attack. He lost his life in the process. and the fort was renamed by Shivaji as Sinhagad in his honor. In a country like India which is very complex, one can find numerous examples related to any theory. However, they could be very misleading.

    If we were to justify corruption by using a cultural, religious or historical context then we must accept that over half the world would be justified in doing so. A cursory glance at the rankings of countries based on Corruption Perception Index (CPI) shows over half of the 178 countries listed have an index of 4 or lower. India’s index is 3.3 and is ranked in the 80s, whereas other comparable countries like China (3.5) and Brazil (3.7) are ranked slightly above India. Corruption is often related to living conditions and access to resources. If these are improved, in most cases corrupion levels can be brought down.This fact is often missed out by many people analysing this malaise.

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