In what is being seen as an attempt to pacify Vokkaligas who came in big number to protest the attack on their community through harassment of its leaders by the BJP at the State and Central levels, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Friday announced installation of a statue of Bengaluru founder Kempe Gowda near Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) at a cost of 100 crore.
The statue of Kempe Gowda whom the Vokkaliga community identifies as an icon could be 100-ft. tall. Besides, a museum to showcase his achievements and growth of Bengaluru will come up on one-acre land within the airport premises, said sources. Sources said the statue would be on the lines of that of Sardar Patels in Gujarat.
The proposal to install Kempe Gowda statue, however, is not new. It was first made when the international airports name was changed from Bengaluru International Airport to KIA in December 2013.
The announcement by the Chief Minister through a tweet on Friday comes amid a perceived sense of growing antagonism for the BJP by the Vokkaliga community, which holds sway in the Cauvery basin districts. Two Kannada newspapers also carried signed articles of Mr. Yediyurappa on Kempe Gowda in their Fridays edition. Though previous governments had set up Kempe Gowda Development Authority, they had not sanctioned funds, said Mr. Yediyurappa.
Sources said that Wednesdays protest by Vokkaliga community, in which the police estimated that about 25,000 people took part, has been taken seriously by the State BJP leadership. While the BJP is being seen as the party that triggered the fall of H.D. Kumaraswamy-led the Janata Dal (Secular)Congress coalition government, the Union government is seen with suspicion after the death of Cafe Coffee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha allegedly following harassment by Income Tax authorities. Latest attack on the community is being seen in the arrest of the former Minister D.K. Shivakumar by the Enforcement Directorate.
Worry of alienation
The party State leaderships assessment is that consolidation of Vokkaligas against the BJP would harm the BJPs prospects in several Assembly segments where they are in a sizeable number, sources said. Vokkaliga leaders in the BJP, including Revenue Minister R. Ashok and Tourism Minister C.T. Ravi, have been tasked to explain that the party is not against the community, and both have been defending the party.
A section of Vokkaliga leaders in the BJP also believe that the party had already alienated the community with the rise of Mr. Yediyurappa, a Lingayat. Traditionally, both Vokkaligas and Lingayats have held political power in the State.
The feeling is that there is no scope for Vokkaliga leaders to grow in the party with a Lingayat at the top. Also, the number of Vokkaligas in the State Cabinet has come down to three. Mr. Ashok, who has been the Vokkaliga face in the party, has been sidelined. Instead, C.N. Ashwath Narayan has been propped up to the post of Deputy Chief Minister. This move is being seen as divisive by the community, sources said.