Tipu Sultan Died a 'Glorious' Death, Says President Kovind; BJP Says Congress 'Manipulated' Speech
President Ramnath Kovind further praised Tipu Sultan as a “pioneer” in development of warfare technology, saying, “He was a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rocket. This technology was later adopted by the Europeans.”
Bengaluru: Tipu Sultan died a glorious death fighting the British, President Ramnath Kovind said on Wednesday, about a leader whose legacy has been a bone of contention between the BJP and the Congress.
“He was a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rocket. This technology was later adopted by the Europeans,” Kovind added in his address to the joint session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, eliciting a groan from the BJP-led Opposition.
The Congress members, on the other hand, thumped the tables in approval.
The occasion was the diamond jubilee of the iconic Vidhana Souda -- the seat of Legislature of Karnataka, which became functional 60 years ago. President Kovind was asked to deliver a special address to mark the occasion when a joint session of the Assembly and Council was called.
And while he recalled Karnataka's glorious past and asked the MLAs and MLCs to stay committed to carrying this legacy forward, he made a reference to Karnataka's famous soldiers/ warriors in the speech.
From talking about inspiring kings such as Krishna Devaraya (of the famed Vijayanagar Empire) and Kempe Gowda (known as the founder of Bengaluru), he shifted focus to rulers such as Rani Chennamma and Rani Abakka who took on colonial invaders 200 years ago. It was in this context that he spoke of Tipu Sultan.
Unbeknown to him, the Tipu reference touched a raw nerve in the BJP -- the party that was instrumental in elevating Kovind as President. The BJP has been whipping up emotions against the celebration of Tipu Jayanthi -- the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan on November 10 -- saying that Tipu was known for forced conversions and should not be celebrated.
They have questioned his heroics, and one Union Minister has even called him a rapist, asking the State government to not include his (the Minister's) name in any of the events.
Caught on the backfoot after this speech, a crimson-faced BJP tried to pass off the speech as a manipulation by the ruling Congress in Karnataka.
"Such speeches for the President are usually written by the State government. He was merely mouthing it. This does not mean we will call off our agitations against Tipu Jayanthi," said R Ashok, BJP MLA, and a former home minister.
Opposition leader in the Council K S Eshwarappa went a step further, saying the speech was handed to the President just minutes before he took his place at the head of the Legislature Hall -- that, until 11.15, the President did not know what he was talking about.
Others, like party General Secretary C T Ravi, shied away from the controversy. "No, let's not comment on his speech. Some issues should be left alone if I comment it will become big," he told News18.
The Congress took a grim view of the accusation that it wrote the President's speech. "How can we write the President's speech? Does the BJP not know even something so basic? They must have a conscience," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah retorted angrily, while also praising President Kovind for a "statesman-like address".
AICC Spokesperson Dinesh GunduRao said the BJP was belittling the office of the President by suggesting that his speeches are ghost-written. "He has an entire office for such things, he doesn't have to parrot what others say. Why is the BJP going so petty as to question the wisdom of the President's office," he said.
Interestingly, while the President's official twitter handle tweeted out nuggets from his speech between 11.41 am and 12.06 pm, the tweets steer clear of the para on Tipu. The tweets include bits from his speech about inspiring kings such as Krishna Devaraya and formidable soldiers like Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimayya. While the tweets are all put out within a minute of each other, there is a gap of three minutes -- between 12.01 and 12.04 -- between the references to Krishna Devaraya and the soldiers. In the speech, the reference to Tipu comes between these two paras.
The celebration of Tipu Jayanthi has become controversial ever since the Siddaramaiah government started this in November 2015, in which two people lost their lives in riots during protests by the BJP. The BJP has accused the Congress of minority appeasement in its attempt to celebrate an 18th-century monarch, while the Congress has accused the BJP of communalising this issue every year deliberately.
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