STATES

A watershed? Karnataka Congress begins Mekedatu yatra, government shows restraint

Express News Service

KANAKAPURA:  With the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government seemingly not in a mood to take on and scuttle Congress party’s 10-day padayatra, demanding the implementation of the Mekedatu irrigation project, the event took off with over 7,000 people taking part on Sunday at Sangama, the confluence of Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers.

But the grand old party suffered a setback with Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, aged 73, getting exhausted after climbing a 4-5 km steep road in the hot sun in this patch of Eastern Ghats. He returned to Bengaluru midway, while other leaders completed the scheduled 15 km trek for the day.

Earlier, a video of KPCC president DK Shivakumar stumbling while performing pooja in the Cauvery river went viral on social networking sites with BJP trolling him. “He could not cross Mekedatu (goat’s leap), let goat take a leap,” it tweeted.

But Congress managed to launch the event with much fanfare with a host of leaders and local seers taking part. Though the government had issued a warning on Saturday that any violation of weekend curfew and Covid norms would not be tolerated, no action was taken against rallyists.

“We are on river Cauvery with the flags of the nation, state and raitha sangha flying high and swamis, senior leaders and celebrities throwing their weight behind us. Arrest us if you can,” Shivakumar dared.
Congress had invited Kannada actor Shivarajkumar, but he did not turn up, while another actor Duniya Vijay attended with other cine artistes.

Though the marchers crowded around and some of them had their masks down, the police were helpless. Ramanagara Superintendent of Police S Gireesh and his counterpart from Bengaluru Rural Kona Vamshi Krishna supervised the security situation.

BJP top brass to keep watch on developments

Sources said the BJP central leadership had advised Bommai to show restraint as the event was taking place at a Vokkaliga bastion where the party has no strong base. Central leaders will keep a watch
on the developments over the next few days and instruct the CM accordingly, they added.

In the meantime, Congress is apprehensive that the government could blame the padayatra for a spurt in Covid cases and put stringent restrictions ahead of the rally’s concluding ceremony at National College Grounds at Basavanagudi in Bengaluru on January 19.

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