Bengaluru: The Bengalaru bandh planned by Kannada outfits on Sunday to coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the city for a mega public meeting has been called off after Karnataka High Court ordered a stay, terming it unconstitutional.
Sunday’s bandh had been called by the same Kannada outfits that staged protests during Amit Shah’s visit last week over the Centre’s alleged inaction in the Mahadayi river dispute between Karnataka and Goa. The protesters will now observe a “black day”.
Veteran Kannada leader and former MLA Vatal Nagaraj, who was leading the bandh call, told News18, “The people of Mumbai-Karnataka region have no drinking water. We are demanding our share of the river. BJP-ruled Goa is behaving like an enemy country. The Prime Minister can solve the dispute in a minute. We have requested him several times. But he is silent on this. If he wants our votes, he must speak for us.”
Vatal has dismissed the BJP’s charge that he is an “agent of the Congress”, which is in power in the state.
Earlier, state home minister R Ramalingareddy also denied the saffron party’s allegation of the bandh being “orchestrated” by the Congress. “Actually, we are requesting Kannada organisations to drop the proposed bandh on Sunday. When the PM is here, they should not do that. But they are independent organisations and don’t listen to the Congress party,” Ramalingareddy said.
The minister also assured tight security arrangements for the Prime Minister’s visit on Sunday. “The BJP is saying that over 1 lakh party workers are attending the public meeting. Even if 10 lakh people attend, we will make security arrangements,” he said.
The BJP’s allegations were also strongly denied by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. “I am not so cheap to back a bandh opposing PM’s visit,” he said.
The denials, however, found no takers in the BJP. The saffron party’s state unit chief BS Yeddyurappa said the Congress was “scared” of the PM’s rally being a success in the poll-bound state.
After visiting Palace Grounds in central Bengaluru — the venue for PM’s public meeting — he said, “Everybody knows who is behind it. They are using some Kannada organisations as their proxies. The same people were behind the bandh during Amit Shah’s rally in Mysore.”
The former CM exuded confidence that at least 4 lakh people would attend Modi’s rally. He, however, hinted that the PM, like Amit Shah, may not speak about the Mahadayi issue.
Yeddyurappa’s close aides argue that a bandh call for Sunday, a holiday, is in itself “proof of Congress’ frustration”. “Never in the history of Karnataka and perhaps India has a bandh been called on a Sunday. Now they have asked the people to observe a bandh on a holiday. What does it show? Is it not proof enough?” one of his aides told News18.
The third player in state politics, the Janata Dal (Secular), distanced itself from the issue. Its state chief and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, who has already met Modi seeking his intervention in Mahadayi dispute, said the PM was yet to give an assurance.
“I requested him to tell Goa to release the water to Karnataka. The PM offered me a cup of coffee, but gave no assurance,” Gowda said.
On January 25, Amit Shah’s public meeting saw a moderate crowd amid the bandh. This time, the state BJP is not taking any chances and has instructed each of its booth-level leaders to get at least 10 persons to the PM’s public meeting, which is likely to set the BJP’s tone for Karnataka Assembly elections.
Some Mahadayi river basin farmers’ organisations have threatened to sell pakodas outside the PM’s rally venue, taking a jibe at a statement made by Modi in a recent TV interview.