Days after the state capital saw 30,000 people of the Vokkaliga community come out in support of former minister DK Shivakumar, who is in the Enforcement Directorate’s custody, chief minister BS Yediyurappa reiterated a pledge to build a statue to Vokkaliga icon Kempegowda as a peace offering to the community.
The pledge was part of a note written by Yediyurappa on Kempegowda, the 16th century founder of Bengaluru, that was published across Kannada newspapers’ opinion pages.
In the note, apart from highlighting Kempegowda’s history, Yediyurappa sought to stress on administrative reforms carried out by the 16th century ruler. It ended with Yediyurappa saying, “To honour Bengaluru’s founder, our government has decided to release Rs 100 crore to the Kempegowda Authority and also to construct a statue of Kempegowda near the International Airport.”
A close aide of the chief minister said the proposal was not new and that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city civic body, had already kept aside Rs 5 crore for the statue. “What was in the papers was a reiteration of this promise.”
However, the timing of the outreach gave rise to speculation that the BJP was worried that it was being affected in the Vokkaliga dominated southern Karnataka region as Shivakumar’s arrest is being painted as an attack on the community.
The mobilisation of the Vokkaligas began last week after Shivakumar was arrested in connection with a money laundering case. It was the Janata Dal (Secular) that had begun a campaign centred on the Vokkaliga community by criticising the BJP of being against Vokkaligas.
Soon, the Congress, too, caught up with this narrative, especially at a rally in the city on Wednesday that was called by Vokkaliga organisations. Several Congress leaders had joined the protest, which was ostensibly held to also condemn the circumstances under which Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha committed suicide earlier this year.
Indeed, there was no immediate reason for a celebration of Kempegowda as his birth anniversary had already been celebrated in June.
Speaking to HT, Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao said it appeared that the BJP was jittery after Wednesday’s protest. “It is an old scheme, then why write about it now. Of course, it appears that they are a little nervous, which is why the chief minister has taken such a measure,” he said.
Wednesday’s protest had also surprised many Vokkaligas in the BJP. State tourism minister CT Ravi had questioned the Vokkaliga organisations and asked them to take a call on who they wanted as the community’s role model. The BJP has even named a Vokkaliga, CN Ashwath Narayan, as the deputy chief minister.
One senior leader in the party, speaking on condition of anonymity said that the party was not very concerned, “just a little”. “See, we are following in the path of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and people in the country want clean governance,” the leader said. However, he admitted that there was a risk the BJP was running of losing out in the Old Mysuru region. “The JD(S) and Congress will fan the flames for sure,” he said.
Repeated attempts to reach former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy for comments went unanswered.
Sep 13, 2019 19:42 IST