Even as the fight against the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, a fresh controversy erupted in Karnataka on Wednesday over the naming of a flyover in Bengaluru.
The 400-metre-long flyover at Yelahanka, scheduled to be inaugurated by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Thursday morning, was named after freedom fighter and Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar. After political opposition, the decision on the name was withdrawn hours later, following which the government decided to put on hold the inaugural event as well.
Thursday also happens to be the birth anniversary of Savarkar who the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) considers a revolutionary freedom fighter and "great patriot", while the Congress and some other political parties have shunned him due to his alleged links with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Siddaramaiah termed the move to name the flyover, built at an estimated cost of Rs 34 crore, after Savarkar as an insult to freedom fighters from Karnataka's soil and urged Yediyurappa to drop it and instead name it after a freedom fighter from the state.
In a tweet, he said "The hasty decision to name Yelahanka flyover after Savarkar is an evidence to say that the administration is not run by an elected government, but by those behind the screen. Chief Minister are you seeking opposition cooperation for such anti-people decisions?"
Another former chief minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader HD Kumaraswamy said the decision was an insult to those who fought for the prosperity of the state and it was not right on the part of the government to do so.
"There are several eminent personalities who fought for the development and welfare of the state both before and after independence, flyover could have been named after them. Have other states named things after freedom fighters from the state? I urge the state government on behalf of the people to step back from the decision," he wrote on Twitter.
According to sources, the decision to name the flyover after Savarkar was taken at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (city civic body) council meeting on February 29.
Defending the move, Yelahanka MLA SR Vishwanath, who is also the political secretary to the chief minister said, there was nothing wrong in naming the flyover after a freedom fighter who was jailed and suffered punishment at Kala Pani (erstwhile Andaman jail) for the sake of the country.
He said legally as per rules BBMP council has approved it and all formalities have been completed and only after that the naming has been planned.
Vishwanath termed the attempt to create controversy over naming the flyover after Savarkar as insult to freedom fighters, adding that several projects and bridges in his constituency have been named after eminent personalities of the state and the country and this was one such move.
However, the Congress said a call on finalising the name of the bridge was taken by the BBMP despite opposition, and questioned Savarkar's contribution to Karnataka and Bengaluru.
The decision was taken by the BBMP without any discussion in the council, said Leader of Opposition in the council Abdul Wajid.
"What is Savarkar's contribution to the nation? Any such decision on naming flyover has to be done after discussing in the council. We will raise this in the council meeting on Thursday," said Wajid.
The Congress and other opposition parties had earlier vehemently opposed the move to confer Bharat Ratna on Savarkar, posthumously. While Savarkar was acquitted of the charge of Gandhi’s murder, his hardline Hindutva views long made him a pariah for the secular establishment.
(With inputs from PTI)