The Congress’s campaign to highlight alleged corruption of the ruling BJP government in Karnataka by using QR-coded images of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai along with a “Pay CM” logo has unleashed a war of words between the two parties. While Bommai termed the campaign “dirty politics,” his close associate and health minister K Sudhakar saw the Congress’s move as targeting the Lingayat community to which Bommai belongs.
“This is the dirty politics of the Congress party. This is a systematic campaign to not only tarnish the state’s image but also my image,” Bommai said after the campaign began, adding: “Even we know how to do such baseless campaigns. The government will make efforts to put an end to any attempts to tarnish the image of Karnataka.”
Calling the government “pro-people” and Bommai “a common man CM”, Sudhakar said, ”He (Bommai) is providing good administration and this is not acceptable to the Congress.”
Sudhakar went on to claim that “the Congress did the same thing to Veerendra Patil (a Lingayat CM who was forced to step down in the 1990s by the Congress),” adding: “Anybody who is a good administrator, especially from the dominant Lingayat community, is targeted if they are the CM.”
”They always target the major communities. It is not the first time. They did not spare Kengal Hanumanthaiah (former Karnataka CM). If there is a CM from the majority community, then this is the constant approach of the Congress. Have you ever seen a former CM sticking posters in this country? They should be ashamed. They will get a fitting reply in the May elections in the state,” the BJP minister said.
Hitting out at the statement, Congress state president D K Shivakumar asked whether Bommai was made CM on account of his caste affiliations. “Has the CM been appointed on the basis of his caste? He is a constitutionally appointed authority. We are targeting the government and he is the head of the government,” he said.
Former CM Siddaramaiah questioned as to how caste came into the picture and criticised similar corruption allegations levied against him when he was in power.
“Our allegation is about corruption. The allegation has been made by the contractors association. If we raise this issue, which has also been raised in the Assembly, where does the question of caste come into the picture? When I was the CM, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made allegations that the Siddaramaiah government is a 10 percent government. What was the intention of the allegation? Was it because Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba?” he said.
The former CM of the state added: “It was a baseless allegation (by the PM). Does the Congress not have Lingayat leaders? The attempt to paint the allegations of corruption in the colour of caste is an attempt by the BJP to cover up their wrong doings. They have taken shelter under the caste cover. What is the connection between caste and corruption?”
Responding to the BJP releasing a poster and a booklet last Thursday detailing the alleged corruption during his tenure as CM, Siddaramaiah said “the book contained fake allegations”. He added: “Can I go around and say they are targeting me because I am a Kuruba and from the backward castes. Who forced Yediyurappa to step down? Was it not the BJP? Is it not true that Yediyurappa is a Lingayat? Who is then anti-Lingayat?” he asked.
He went on to say that the BJP did not understand the “meaning of the term dirty politics.” “Is it dirty politics to say the government is involved in corruption, that 40 per cent commissions need to be paid in this government?”
Siddaramaiah alleged that “the Sangh Parivar and the BJP” were “involved in dirty politics in the country,” adding: “Will a party that fought for Independence be involved in dirty politics? The picture of (Nathuram) Godse is used by these people in Ganesh festival processions. Is that not dirty politics?”
The back-and-forth began after the Congress party plastered the “Pay CM” posters across Bengaluru last week to attack the BJP over allegations of 40 per cent commissions in awarding and implementation of civil contracts in the state. Senior leaders such as D K Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah were also seen putting up posters after the Bengaluru police arrested five people on charges of disfiguring public places with the posters.