The Congress has decided to call off the contentious Mekedatu rally in Karnataka, which began in Kanakapura on Sunday, 9 January and was slated to culminate in Bengaluru on 19 January, despite the weekend curfew in place across the state.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah made the announcement on Thursday, 13 January, stating that the padayatra will be “temporarily cancelled” due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Karnataka.
'We Are Stopping Because of Concern Towards People'
Speaking to the media after a meeting with party members, Siddaramaiah said, “We are not stopping because of the government orders. We are stopping because of concern towards people. In Bengaluru, the cases are rising, and lakhs would have gathered for the program. So we discussed the matter and we are temporarily stopping the padayatra. When the COVID-19 restrictions are eased, we will continue the padayatra from here (Ramanagara).”
“Till now we have done the padyatra successfully. Today, the fifth day, had to start from Ramanagara and we were to go through the Bengaluru-Mysuru National Highway. Yesterday when we saw how many have been infected in Bengaluru, the cases were more than 15,000. We are a political party, an old political party which has ruled in the state and country. We have responsibilities,” he said. Siddaramaiah also alleged that members of the Congress party have been falsely booked for allegedly flouting COVID-19 rules at the rally.
The decision to postpone the padayatra comes a day after the Karnataka government issued an order prohibiting the rally as well as barring travelling intra and inter district for it.
The padayatra began at the confluence of the Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers in Kanakapura, to demand speedy implementation of the Mekedatu dam project. The state government, run by the BJP, issued prohibitory orders against the padayatra on Wednesday, 12 January.
Ramanagara district became a police fortress as about 4,000 police personnel landed there in the backdrop of the government's order to stop the padayatra. The issue became a political flashpoint, and the rally was continuing towards Bengaluru amid high drama.
The Karnataka High Court also had pulled up the state government and ordered it to issue a show-cause notice to the Congress regarding the matter. The court had questioned how the party was allowed to hold the rally amid the third wave of COVID-19 infections.
FIRs have been filed against senior Congress leaders including state party chief DK Shivakumar (MLA of Kanakapura constituency), Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah for violating COVID-19 norms, the government contended. The court had directed the Congress to file a response on the issue by 14 January.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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