Karnataka: Ramanagara cases trigger political slugfest

Coronavirus Lockdown: Ramanagara cases trigger political slugfest in Karnataka

Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan

After five persons tested positive for Covid-19 in the Ramanagara prison, a political battle erupted with the Congress and JD(S) making the most of this against the ruling BJP, which is trying to make inroads into the Vokkaliga bastion.

It was Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan, the Ramanagara district-in-charge minister, who came under the crosshairs of Congress’ D K Shivakumar and JD(S)’ H D Kumaraswamy.

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The two Vokkaliga leaders teamed up to launch an attack on Narayan, also a Vokkaliga, signifying the boiling political undercurrents in Ramanagara.

Narayan's appointment as the minister in charge of Ramanagara was seen as a move to help the BJP establish itself in the Vokkaliga-dominated district. Of late, the Sangh Parivar, too, has shown determination to build a strong base in the district to take on the Shivakumar-Kumaraswamy combo.

Kumaraswamy, a former chief minister who represents Channapatna, said he had warned the government against transferring those accused in the Padarayanapura vandalism to the Ramanagara prison. "Does he have any sense?" Kumaraswamy thundered, referring to Narayan. "Five people have tested positive. Who allowed that to happen?"

The BJP government had "neither a mind nor body", Kumaraswamy said, adding that this "calamity had been introduced into the district".

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Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha Kumaraswamy, the Ramanagara MLA, alleged a conspiracy. "The government did not pay heed to (Kumaraswamy's) advice. Narayan, who is also a certified doctor, has to show accountability," she said.

Shivakumar, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president, wondered whether the government was taking revenge against Ramanagara for not electing a single BJP MLA. "There were hostels, convention centres, Victoria Hospital and other quarantine centres. Why did it have to be Ramanagara? If Ashwath Narayan has anger, let him vent it out in some other way," Shivakumar said, demanding that the government "protect" Ramanagara and ensure it remained a green zone.

Shivakumar also defended Kumaraswamy, saying the "former chief minister is sensible, educated and responsible". This political bonhomie between them is not new.

Defending the government's decision, Narayan said: "It’s true that Kumaraswamy opposed it, where else could we shift them? Was there any other small jail nearby? The government hasn't been careless."

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai also defended the move. "There will be accusations about whatever we do. If we had kept them in a hospital here, people would have questioned that also," he said.