Bengaluru: After failing to enmesh Congress strong man D K Shivakumar in income tax and Enforcement Directorate cases, the BJP is attempting to gain leverage on him through its opposition to the erection of a statue of Jesus Christ atop a hill called Kapala Betta in his Kanakapura constituency.
Led by RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, the Sangh Parivar is mobilizing protests against the use of 20 acres of land near the village of Harobele to build the statue. This is a parcel of ‘gomal' (grazing) land that Shivakumar had purchased through the Revenue Department when he was a minister in the Congress government. He gifted it to a Christian missionary group affiliated to the Holy Rosary Church to construct a statue of Christ comparable to the Jesus the Redeemer monolith in Rio de Janeiro.
Using the ruse that the law forbids sanctioning of lands for religious purposes, the BJP is gunning for the Congress heavyweight with a view to gaining a foothold in this Vokkaliga bastion.
Kapala Betta was traditionally known as Muneshwara Betta after the Muneshwara temple on the hilltop. Atop an adjacent hill called Shivana Betta there is an Eshwara temple. A cross gradually materialized on the top of the hill, and two years ago a trust was formed to develop the hilltop and build a statue of Jesus Christ taller than any in Asia.
Even while the trust’s application was being processed in various government departments, the authorities drew a 11 KV power line and built a broad road to the top of the hill. Large slabs of granite were transported and work on the statue began. The government’s approval for the project came only in the last week of December 2019. By then, a lot of the work had been carried out.
Soon, however, the government detected a number of violations in the entire project, and revenue minister R Ashok ruled that land could not be sanctioned for such projects. Local people, who had been mute spectators to the spectacle for two years, started raising their voices against the project.
Local villagers told this correspondent that there have been conversions here among the poorer Vokkaligas, mainly labourers and other underprivileged sections. There now are 16000 Christian votes in the constituency, which hadn’t been there two decades ago. Often, the new converts migrate to other areas for employment, which results in a shortage of agriculture labour.
It has been the BJP’s design to make inroads into Karnataka’s Vokkaliga bastions, which have largely been the preserve of the Janata Dal (S) and the Congress. Though it could win over the community in Malnad and coastal Karnataka, the eight districts of Old Mysuru region have proved tough nuts to crack. In the last Assembly general election, the party could win one seat in Hassan, while making no headway in Mandya, Chickaballapur, Chamarajnagar, Kolar and Ramanagar.
However, during the recent byelections, BJP made a dent in Chikkaballapur as well as Mandya district, where its candidates, all of them turncoats from the other parties, won comfortably.
The saffron party is determined to break down the leadership of the community. But for now, instead of going after the JD(S), it is concentrating its fire on D K Shivakumar, who is the Vokkaliga face of the Congress.
After failing to pin him down with IT/ED cases, the BJP was waiting for an opportunity to take on Shivakumar. Besides, Ramanagar district has only four Assembly segments. While Ramanagar and Channapattana have a substantial Muslim population to keep the BJP under check, Kanakapura and Magadi are the two constituencies which the BJP is planning to break into. Kanakapura is the home constituency of D K Shivakumar, who has not lost a Assembly election since 1989....