CM Siddaramaiah wants to ban astrology shows on TV, future of fortune tellers in Karnataka bleak

Bengaluru: This is one big ‘catastrophe’ they could not predict. It has now hit them hard. The astrologers who tell live astrology and predict the future on television channels in Karnataka will have to shut their shop, if Chief Minister Siddaramaiah manages to ban such shows.

A few days ago, speaking at a function Siddaramaiah said, “Every television channel wants to air astrology-based shows in Karnataka. There seem to be many viewers for them. In my home too, the scenario is no different. It’s time we banned such shows.”

There has been a demand from sections of the society that these shows should be banned as they spread superstition and cause mental problems.

Siddaramaiah calls himself an agnostic. His admirers call him an atheist. However his actions prove something entirely different. After he became chief minister, he started visiting temples and started consulting astrologers.

A few years ago, during a chit-chat he had told this journalist that his wife was a believer in astrology and he was not against such things. TV astrologers in Karnataka thought that they had nothing to fear under his rule. But, his latest statement has put a question mark over the future of fortune tellers.

Kannada has over one dozen TV news and entertainment channels. All these channels have live astrology shows every day. These shows are highly popular and some of the telly astrologers are big celebrities in Karnataka. One of them Narendra Babu Sharma of ‘Bruhat Brahmanda’ show fame was a runner up at Colors Kannada channel’s Bigg Boss Season one in 2013.

According to insiders, live astrology shows are one of the main sources of income for TV channels. Even the news channels can’t survive without these shows. Some channels have 3-4 astrologers as fixed guests. Some of them get paid in lakhs per month. Some astrologers even buy slots to promote their ‘trade’ on TV.

There has been a demand from sections of the society that these shows should be banned as they spread superstition and cause mental problems. Those who back these shows claim that government can’t interfere in their personal choices. They even argue that it is against freedom of speech or expression.

The chief minister’s statement has led to a fierce debate over the pros and cons of such a ban. Some television channels which earn both viewership and revenue from these shows are already up in the arm against any such attempt to ban the shows.

“Many politicians strongly believe in astrology. They don’t miss an opportunity to seek advice during elections and crises. How can they have different rules for different people?” an anchor of a leading Kannada channel told a newspaper.

The demand for ban on such shows has a history. The Congress government in Karnataka has already prepared a draft of the Karnataka Prevention of Anti-Superstition Bill 2015. Earlier attempts to get this Bill passed in the state Assembly were foiled by the opposition which termed it as anti–Hindu beliefs. They demand that the Bill should include superstitious beliefs other religions including Islam and Christianity.

After the gruesome murder of scholar MM Kalaburgi in August, many activists have been pressurising Siddaramaiah to get the bill passed as soon as possible.

Will he be able to pass the Bill which can force all astrologers to shut their virtual shops and end their lucrative business?

Even the astrologers can’t predict that!