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Row breaks out over Congress leader sponsored Christ statue in Karnataka

By PTI
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Bengaluru, Dec 27: A row broke out in Karnataka on Friday over senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar sponsoring construction of a 114-foot statue of Jesus Christ with the ruling BJP terming it as an appeasement policy and the state government seeking a report from authorities on the status of the land earmarked for the project.

D K Shivakumar

According to state Revenue Minister R Ashoka, the land, said to have been purchased for constructing the statue, is not owned by Shivakumar and it is a government 'gomala' land (pasture land for community use).

The proposed 101-foot statue atop a 13-foot pedestal is coming up at Kapalibetta in Harobele village, a predominantly Christian locality in Kanakapura, the assembly constituency of Shivakumar, about 80 km from here.

The office of Shivakumar has said utilising his own funds he had purchased 10 acres of land at Kapalibetta from the government for the trust that is constructing the statue and claimed it would become the tallest monolithic statue of Jesus in the world.

On December 25, Shivakumar had laid the foundation at a prayer meet and handed over the title deed for the project.

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Speaking on the ownership of the land Ashoka said '....

it is not Shivakumar's property, it is government gomala land, I don't know in what sense he (Shivakumar) has said he has purchased and given it... no one can donate it to any one. I have sought a report from the District Deputy Commissioner of Ramanagara.' Amid references in the social media to Kapalibetta as 'Yesubetta', the Minister said: 'For thousands of years it has been known as Kapalibetta, and for no reason we will allow its name to be changed,' he said adding the land was given for the sake of development and not to hand over it to others.

Earlier in the day, Shivakumar drew flak from several BJP leaders, who termed the project, as an 'appeasement politics' by him to remain in the good books of his party high command.

Coming down heavily on Shivakumar, Rural Development Minister K S Eshwarappa said Congress leaders who opposed the construction of a temple for Lord Ram, who was born in India, were ready to fund construction of a statue of Jesus.

In a tweet, he mentioned that Jesus Christ was born in the Vatican, instead of Bethlehem.

'To impress their leader, those in the Congress, who opposed the construction of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram, born in our holy country, are going to build from their own money a statue of Jesus, who was born in the Vatican, Eshwarappa tweeted.

'Even Siddaramaiah (Congress leader) cannot stop him (Shivakumar) from becoming KPCC President now,' he added.

Shivakumar is seen as one among the front runner for the post of KPCC President that was vacated by Dinesh Gundu Rao, considered Siddaramaiah's confidant, after the party's rout in the December 5 assembly bypolls.

Former Union Minister and BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde too took on Shivakumar on the issue and tweeted 'Here is the Tihar returned great man who, for the sake of a position, is seeking to please the Italian woman by setting up a huge Jesus statue, thus displaying his gallantry.

It won't be a surprise if more slaves within the Congress compete with each other to do appeasement politics.' 'The Italian woman gives importance to only those who have converted to Christianity. Congress leaders should, at least now, introspect and reject the mindset of slavery in their party and come out,' he said in another tweet.

Another BJP MP from Mysuru, Partap Simha, questioned the motive behind installing the statue and demanded to know whether it was a scheme to convert Vokkaligas of Kanakapura.

In a tweet, he asked Shivakumar whether he had forgotten seers of Mutts like Siddaganga, Suttur and Adichunchanagiri.

'Erecting the statute of Shivakumara swamiji (Siddaganga mutt) would have been like a crown on Kapalibetta- isn't it?'.

Reacting to the criticism, Shivakumar said hundreds of Hindu temples have been built in his constituency and he was not doing it for any publicity.

The criticism against him was out of 'jealousy' towards his secular outlook, he said. 'I had promised them (people) two years ago, asking them not do anything on the government land (illegally). On Christmas day I handed over the title deed to them. The Kumaraswamy government had cleared the land and I paid moneyfor it,' he said.

He also said Anantkumar Hegde was 'unemployed' and hence was making such comments.

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