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From Tipu Sultan To Now Kempegowda: BJP’s Uphill Battle To Woo Voters Ahead Of Karnataka Elections 2023

Nadaprabhu Kempegowda was a 16th century chieftain of the Vijayanagara empire and belonged to the state’s second most dominant Vokkaliga community. After the Lingayats, the Vokkaligas constitute a major vote bank for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party in the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections.

Statue of Kempegowda
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The 108-feet bronze statue of Bengaluru's founder Kempegowda will be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 11 near the international airport, Karnataka Minister C N Ashwath Narayan said on Wednesday.

The statue weighing 220 tonne is being installed at the Kempegowda International Airport at an expense of Rs 85 crore. Renowned sculptor and Padma Bhushan awardee Ram Vanji Sutar has designed the statue. Sutar had built the 'Statue of Unity' in Gujarat and the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Bengaluru's Vidhana Soudha.

Besides Kempegowda's statue, there will also be a heritage park in an area covering 23 acres dedicated to the 16th century chieftain.

45-day public campaign for mud collection

Narayan, who is also the Vice-Chairperson of the Kempegowda Heritage Area Development Authority, said a campaign for collecting sacred mud from across the state to be used for the development of Kempegowda theme park at the international airport, will be flagged off by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on October 21 in front of Vidhana Soudha here.

"The campaign will run till November 7 and during this period, vehicles named as 'Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Ratha' will collect the sacred mud across all the districts of the state. The sacred mud thus collected will be used during the unveiling of the 108-feet statue of the Bengaluru founder by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 11," he said.

To ensure the success of the campaign, committees have been formed at the district level, the minister said, CEOs of zilla panchayats in each district will be the nodal officer of the committee.

Religious leaders, elected representatives, writers, progressive farmers, members of self-help groups, senior citizens, milk producers' federations and industrial associations will be involved in the campaign, he added.

Who was Nadaprabhu Kempegowda?

Nadaprabhu Kempegowda was a 16th century chieftain of the Vijayanagara empire and belonged to the state’s second most dominant Vokkaliga community. It is said that he conceived the idea of a new city (today’s Bengaluru) while hunting with his minister, and later fortified his kingdom to arrest the spread of the north Indian Mughal forces. 

After the Lingayats, the Vokkaligas constitute a major vote bank for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party in the upcoming assembly elections scheduled for 2023. Dedicating the ‘statue of prosperity’ to invoke Kempegowda as a symbol of unification is the BJP’s ploy to woo a major portion of the electorate in the state.

Tipu Sultan v/s Kempegowda ploy

This appropriation of Kempegowda comes against the backdrop of the BJP’s sustained attacks on Tipu Sultan’s legacy in the state by branding him as “anti-Hindu” who forcibly converted Hindus to Islam. 

The BJP’s offensive against Tipu Sultan started in 2017, when the Congress government in power in Karnataka planned to celebrate Tipu Jayanti on November 20 in the state. BJP rallied against the event, quoting letters written by Tipu Sultan, labeling him as as a tyrant, a religious fanatic who tried to convert all Hindus to Islam in the Mlabar region. 

BJP Lok Sabha MP Pratap Simha, said in a comment to Economic Times, that Tipu has wrongly been hailed as the ‘Tiger of Mysuru’ and instead stressed that “He never fought a war and died inside the fort. Tipu Sultan indulged in religious conversion and treated Hindus with brutality.” 

When the BJP came to power in 2019, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s government declared that Tipu Jayanti will no longer be celebrated by the state. These moves have been seen as a ploy deployed by the party to divide the voters in the state. 

Against this backdrop, next month’s unveiling of Kempegowda’s statue as a means to assert an alternative Hindu symbol in the state may be another cog in the machine for fulfilling the party’s aspirations in Karnataka assembly polls. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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