Bommai’s maiden visit to politically sensitive Ramanagaram district witnessed unruly scenes; Congress and BJP workers in the audience also spar

In a high-voltage drama in politically sensitive Ramanagaram district, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Monday witnessed chaos at a public function as Bengaluru Rural MP D.K. Suresh and Higher Education Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan almost came to blows after a heated verbal duel on the stage even as Congress and BJP workers in the audience sparred.

The Chief Minister was in Ramanagaram to unveil the statues of B.R. Ambedkar and Nadaprabhu Kempe Gowda, inaugurate public works, and lay the foundation stone for a few projects. The move had been seen to counter the Congress’ proposed padayatra from Mekedatu to Bengaluru seeking early implementation of the Mekedatu drinking water project.

The statue unveiling function was stalled for some time as the unfolding drama led to Mr. Suresh and his cousin S. Ravi, Congress MLC, sitting on a dharna on the stage while Mr. Bommai appealed for calm.

It all started when Congress workers started shouting slogans at the event protesting against Mr. Bommai unveiling the statues, leaving the local MP behind. The Chief Minister, who arrived late at the venue, took the lift along with Dr. Narayan, Ramanagaram district in-charge Minister, only to realise that local legislator Anitha Kumaraswamy was also around. While Mr. Suresh was not taken in the lift to unveil the statue of Ambedkar, he was accommodated when Kempe Gowda statue was unveiled. This riled Mr. Suresh and also Congress workers. Mr. Suresh and Mr. Ravi, turned their ire at district officials, including the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police, for not waiting for them.

Sources said that the proposal to install the statues had been moved by Kanakapura MLA and KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar, and that his name was also in the invitation. He, however, was not present at the venue since he is travelling in Mysuru.

The situation became tense when Dr. Narayan referred to a few Congress workers trying to disrupt the function. “What has gone wrong that you bring a few people to raise slogans? Why are you behaving like this when the Chief Minister is present? I have not tried to encroach anyone’s land,” he said, adding “show your manhood by doing development work”. Soon, an angry Mr. Suresh rushed towards the Minister and asked, “Should I show my manhood?” As the two leaders faced each other and the situation threatened to go out of hand, some police personnel and others rushed to separate them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ravi rushed towards the podium where the Minister was standing and snatched the mike. Mr. Suresh and Mr. Ravi then sat on a dharna on the stage.

It took Mr. Bommai some persuading skills to calm down the tempers both on and off the stage. He urged both the leaders not to stretch the misunderstanding and move on by forgetting the unsavoury incident.

A little later, at a different event at Chikkakalya village, the leaders seemed to have buried their differences at least in public. When some Congress workers interrupted Dr. Narayan during his speech, Mr. Suresh offered to leave the venue if such interruption continued.

Later, Mr. Suresh said, “Though I have not been taken into confidence for anything in Magadi area I have come here to support development keeping aside politics.”

BJP takes a dig

Meanwhile, BJP Karnataka unit in a series of sharp tweets called the DK brothers as “Kanakapura Rowdy brothers”, and said the display by Mr. Suresh and Mr. Ravi on Monday violated all protocols and showed the flexing of muscles.

Accusing the brothers of stealing sandalwood in the past and threatening the government machinery, the BJP said that criminal cases filed by the Forest Department shows their history.

No support for Ashwath Narayan on stage

The turf war over holding reins in Ramanagaram as district in charge was visible as Dr. Nayaran was involved in a bitter spat with Mr. Suresh. Two Vokkaliga leaders also eyeing the charge — MLC C.P. Yogeshwar and Health Minister K. Sudhakar — who were also on the stage did not make any attempt to defuse the situation. Another Minister, Byrathi Basavaraj, also kept quiet, leaving Dr. Narayan isolated on the stage. Meanwhile, the manner in which Dr. Narayan handled Janata Dal (Secular) legislator Anitha Kumaraswamy, who took objection to his speech, has also not gone down well.

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