Bengaluru: A slugfest over inviting leaders of the Opposition parties for the unveiling of a statue of Bengaluru’s founder Nadaprabhu Kempegowda has erupted in Karnataka.
The differences were over the protocol allegedly not being followed by the BJP-ruled State government in extending the invitation, particularly to former Prime Minister and JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda.
With JD(S) terming it as an insult to Gowda and people of the State, and accusing the government of turning the unveiling into a party event, the BJP hit back by releasing the letters written by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to various dignitaries inviting them and they included Deve Gowda.
It accused the JD(S) of indulging in a false propaganda, fearing polarisation of Vokkaliga votes.
On Friday, Modi unveiled the 108-foot high statue near the Kempegowda International Airport here. The statue was the first and the highest bronze statue of a founder of a city, according to the ‘World Book of Records’.
Kempegowda, a feudatory ruler under the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire, founded Bengaluru in 1537. He is revered, especially by the Vokkaliga community that is dominant in Old Mysuru and other parts of southern Karnataka.
Deve Gowda is a tall Vokkaliga leader, and the community forms the core of JD(S)’s voter base.
The developments following the installation of the statue, ahead of the Assembly polls next year, show that a competition of sorts seems to have erupted between the political parties to claim credit for the legacy of Kempegowda. The aim was to garner electoral support from the politically dominant Vokkaliga community.
Speaking on the controversy, JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy claimed his father H D Deve Gowda got a call on Thursday from the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai inviting Gowda for the event on Friday. Besides, a letter was handed over by someone to the police stationed at the compound of former Prime Minister’s residence.
”The letter released by the BJP starts with the word -respected…it has Deve Gowda’s name somewhere at the end of the letter; the name seems to have been added later,” he alleged as he hit out at the saffron party questioning whether its leaders have any civility.
However, Minister C N Ashwath Narayan, who was overseeing the statue project and unveiling programme as he is also the vice-chairman of the Kempegowda Heritage Area Development Authority, on behalf of the government, said Bommai himself had invited and written a letter to Deve Gowda, and his name also appears on the inaugural plaque.
”He (Gowda) was invited, but did not come, our government and people have respect for Gowda and there is no question of disrespecting him,” he said, adding that all the former Chief Ministers, including Siddaramaiah and H D Kumaraswamy, were invited by Bommai.
Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, too, said the Chief Minister told him clearly that he had personally invited the former Prime Minister and would inquire into why he did not come.
”Saying he (Gowda) was not invited is not right…” he said, adding that Kumaraswamy and other JD(S) leaders were unable to digest what BJP has done, by installing Kempegowda statue.
Noting that not inviting a farmer-leader who was the first person from Karnataka to become the Prime Minister was an insult to the State, JD(S) State president C M Ibrahim said leaders of other parties, including former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, should have been invited.
Siddaramaiah said he received a call from Bommai on Thursday inviting the former for the event.
He said, ”I told the Chief Minister that the invitation doesn’t have my name, also I have a meeting, so I can’t come.” The Leader of Opposition, while stating that he and his party welcomed the installation of the statue, however, claimed that it was the earlier Congress government which had initially planned the statue and named the airport after Kempegowda.
State Congress president D K Shivakumar alleged that the BJP government is doing everything as per the party agenda of votebank politics, and is promoting the party using government money.
”The ruling BJP’s conduct- whether they gave respect to Deve Gowda or not, made former Chief Minister S M Krishna sit behind (during the event), I leave it for them,” he said, as he once again questioned as to why government funds were used for the statue.
He said Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), which runs the Kempegowda International Airport, should have taken up the work on the statue and completed the task related to it.