Fearing political gain for the Congress from the ‘padayatra’, the ruling BJP is making ”frustrated attempts” to scuttle it, former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Tuesday, as their march demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river, entered its third day.
Asserting that they will go ahead with the padayatra as planned, the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, who rejoined the march today after recovering from fever, accused the BJP government of colluding with neighbouring Tamil Nadu, in delaying the implementation of Mekedatu project, and there by were betraying the people of the state.
FIRs have been registered against nearly 30 Congress leaders including Siddaramaiah, Congress’ state president D K Shivakumar, Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, among others for taking part in padayatra, defying COVID-19 curbs and prohibitory orders.
”They have booked cases against 30 of us and they may book more cases. We will not fear cases, if they feel they can scare us by filing cases, we can call this BJP government a foolish government…we will fight it legally,” Siddaramaiah said.
Speaking to reporters here, he questioned why cases have not been booked against BJP leaders like MLAs Subhash Guttedar, M P Renukacharya, Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje and others, who took part in events gathering large number of people, in violation of COVID rules.
Pointing at Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Ministers too had recently attended swearing-in of newly elected MLCs at Vidhana Souydha’s banquet hall, where 3,000-4,000 people were present, and no case was booked, Siddaramaiah alleged that the BJP government’s intention is very clear, which is to scuttle Congress’ padayatra.
”They don’t want this march to be successful, they don’t want people to be aware. They feel this will cause political gain for Congress and for this reason they are trying to thwart it…it is a frustrated attempt by the BJP government,” he said, accusing the the ruling party of favouring Tamil Nadu, with an intention to increase the party base in that state.
”Will you collude with Tamil Nadu and betray Karnataka and its people? We will not allow it, we will make your conspiracy public,” he said, adding that the padayatra is in the interest of the people and there is no prestige issue in this.
As part of their 10-day long padayatra demanding for implementation of Mekedatu project, to which Tamil Nadu is opposed to, the Congress leaders and workers continued their march for the third day today, and will be covering a distance of about 14.3 km from Kanakapura to Chikkenahalli.
Further alleging conspiracy to somehow stop the march, the Congress Legislature Party leader said, ”Our DK (Shivakumar) is like a rock, despite walking for two days nothing has happened to him, but it seems like the government planned to give COVID positive report to him to stop the march.”
”We will not stop our padayatra and will complete it as planned,” he declared and said that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and the ruling BJP are scared because people are voluntarily joining the march.
”They think about our Ballari padayatra and are unable to sleep as they fear repeat of sorts.” Congress had organised a successful march from Bengaluru to Ballari against illegal mining in 2010, which is seen as one among the major contributors for the party coming to power in 2013 assembly polls.
Defending their march, amid pandemic, Siddaramaiah said, ”cases are surging in Maharashtra, Delhi too, is padayatra happening there?” Cases are not spreading because of padayatra, it is increasing naturally, as there is a third wave, he added.
He also hit out at Home Minister Araga Jnanendra for his statement that the Congress will be responsible if a lockdown like situation arises, by calling it ”irresponsible”, and said, BJP will be responsible for it, due to their inability to manage the situation, and not following curbs themselves.
Reiterating his charge that BJP government is delaying implementation of Mekedatu project initiated by the Congress government, Siddaramaiah said, ”When we were in power there was a BJP government at the centre, but now BJP is at power both at the state and the centre, why have you not been able to get environmental clearance and start the project?”
He also called on the Congress workers to follow COVID rules like using masks, sanitizers, and maintaining social distance during the padayatra.