Express News Service
BENGALURU: Amid harsh criticism by the public and heeding the Karnataka High Court’s instructions, the Congress on Thursday cut short the Mekedatu padayatra.
On Wednesday evening, there was an indication of this as both Opposition leader Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar returned to Bengaluru. They discussed the HC’s observations following a public interest litigation filed by A V Nagendra Prasad, a resident of Tindlu in Bengaluru.
They held a Congress Legislature Party and leaders meeting at Ramanagara in the morning and took a decision to stop the padayatra for the time being and continue it later when the Covid19 cases decline.
The AICC general secretary and Karnataka in charge Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is under home isolation afflicted by the virus, spoke to both Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar over phone while the meeting was underway and advised them to take a wise decision, sources informed TNIE.
A host of Congress leaders including leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge and former Union minister M Veerappa Moily who had taken part in the padayatra have also tested positive.
The Congress which had kicked off the padayatra at Cauvery Sangama in Kanakapura taluk had stubbornly continued with it despite criticism by the ruling BJP government led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and allegedly flouted all the Covid19 protocols set by the government. The administration in Ramanagara had filed three FIRs against six leaders.
The HC’s intervention following the PIL finally led to the end of the padayatra which was termed a super spreader as social distancing was sent for a toss and came as a relief in the wake of the surge in Covid19 cases especially in the IT capital Bengaluru. It is said that over 25,000 Congress workers had registered to take part in the padayatra of which 25 per cent were from Bengaluru. If the padayatra had converged for a mega rally on the national college grounds on Januery 19, it would have witnessed a huge crowd.
The Congress rank and file also heaved a sigh of relief as its leaders Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar returned to Bengaluru on Wednesday evening due to exhaustion. Siddaramaiah who had skipped the yatra on Sunday complained of back pain and Shivakumar of swelling of his limbs.
“Since the High Court had made its oral observation and instructed us to stop the padayatra in the interest of public health, the decision has been made. We had taken out the padayatra in the larger interest of the people of Karnataka demanding the implementation of the Mekedatu project which will benefit them. But the circumstances forced us to stop it for the time being in the interest of public health. When the situation improves with a decline in Covid19 cases, we will restart it,” said Chittapura Congress MLA Priyank Kharge who had attended the meeting.
“We have stopped the padayatra for the time being in the interest of the people as the ruling BJP would have blamed us for the spread of Covid19 cases especially in Bengaluru. But we will resume it demanding the implementation of the Mekedatu irrigation project when the third wave passes off,” said Opposition leader Siddaramaiah.