It is like being caught between the devil and the deep sea for BJP leaders in the Southern states. While citizens are outraging over Hindi imposition, BJP leaders find themselves in a catch-22 situation that doesn't allow them to either support the people and face the party's wrath or toe the party line and get pulled up by electors.
"We are helpless. Our party has a Hindi problem. Senior leadership believes that Hindi is enough to communicate. Unfortunately, even in intra-party events where only members are invited, the brochures or books are all in Hindi. I remember once asking the organisers to provide an English booklet, only to be told that it was only printed in Hindi," said a BJP legislator drawing from memory.
While some leaders have no qualms taking sides, either supporting the party or opposing Hindi imposition, some tread cautiously. "There is no imposition per say. Hindi letters are used in signages to help those who have come from other parts of the country. Its inclusiveness and should not be viewed as Hindi imposition," said another leader who has been a minister in the BJP government in Karnataka.
The BJP government at the Centre has been receiving flak for imposing Hindi on non-Hindi belts of the country. DMK's M K Stalin was the first to raise his voice against Hindi imposition on milestones in Tamil Nadu. When Hindi made its way to Namma Metro stations in Bengaluru, all hell broke loose. Netizens, who started a campaign against Hindi signages under #NammaMetroHindiBeda, highlighted a letter written by senior BJP leader and Union minister Venkaiah Naidu asking Hindi to be used as one of the languages to display signs in metro stations.
"The first instance of Hindi usage in signage came about on highways where milestones were painted in Hindi. Many pictures emerged from highways across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It becomes very difficult for someone who doesn't know Hindi if all milestones are painted in Hindi. I have pressed for Kannada, English and, if need be, Hindi to be used for milestones. Three languages are perhaps useful," said a BJP leader from the south.
While heir electors are vehemently opposing usage of Hindi in public places, MLAs, MPs and even ministers of the BJP from the Southern states have no freedom even to support the protest. Bound by the party senior leadership on one side and demands of their voters on another, BJP leaders are unable to express their thoughts about the entire debate.