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Kannada

Kannada is the language of Karnataka, appeared to be a language in waiting in the 1990s when it had four newspapers as members of the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) and the average sales of about 800000 copies a day. By 2008, Kannada had eight dailies as members of ABC with an audited circulation of 1.6 million newspapers a day. Circulation had grown by more than 50% in less than 10 years. Kannada had entered the stage of intense competition among the number of publications. Readers of Kannada were entering a mass media age with more than 35 copies of a Kannada daily newspaper circulating each day for every 1000 people in the state of Karnataka. In 1999, a wealthy road transport operator, Vijay Sankeshwar, elected to the Lok Sabha as a BJP member from a northern Karnataka constituency (semi arid and dry, hence poor and backward) in the previous year started a Kannada daily, Vijaya Karnataka in order to address the totally neglected area of North Karnataka. Sankeshwar pushed his new daily in remote corners and within an year was publishing from seven centres across the state. By the time he sold his paper to the Times of India group in 2006, Vijay Karnataka had become the largest selling Kannada daily. However, a similar attempt of the Times group was foiled in Kerala when it bought shares of the erstwhile Kerala daily, Mathrubhumi in 1989. There the Kerala High court blocked the sale of shares. No such outcry ensued in Karnataka, a mark either of the growing sophistication of Indian capitalism or the profound cultural differences between Kerala and Karnataka. The conversion of wealth into notoriety and respect has motivated many wealthy families to enter the newspaper business; it has been able to lure entrepreneurs to become newspaper proprietors for as long as there have been printing presses. From his vantage point, Sankeshwar knew that he could carry a newspaper into remote areas of Karnataka where it has been a rare phenomenon till date. He convinced the advertisers that the market here was still untapped and they have a large scope to promote their products in this pristine territory. A newspaper is also fitted with a political ambition many a times. Based on the Andhra model of the symbiotic relationship between the Eenadu and the Telugu Desam Party which sweeped the state, Sankeshwar also used his newspaper to nurture his own political ambitions with the help of his paper, when he floated his own short lived political party in 2003. Political competition helped propel the growth of Kannada dailies. From mid 1990s, Karnataka produced 3 way contests for the state government, fought between the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular). The stae had 6 CMs between 19996 to 2008political volatility and instability. The pervasiveness of competitive politics in Karnataka contributed immensely, especiallyin the countryside to an eagerness and hunger for news. The spread of newspapers was also credited with the rise in the popularity of the BJP and of aggressive Hindu chauvinistic tendencies. Vijaya Karnataka and Udyavani, a ctic wrote, have been indulging in such saffronisation of the readers mind.