The 114-ft Jesus statue, which Kanakapura MLA DK Shivakumar wants to build has been shrouded in controversy since he laid the foundation stone for its construction on December 25. BJP leaders have slammed DK Shivakumar accusing him of trying to consolidate a vote bank. However, this has reportedly made Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa uneasy, sources close to him say.
In the cabinet meeting held on Monday, Yediyurappa’s associates say that the Chief Minister instructed his cabinet colleagues to not target Congress leader DK Shivakumar regarding the construction of the statue on religious grounds.
“Yediyurappa instructed his cabinet members to avoid making comments that could hurt the Christian community. Several ministers like KS Eshwarappa have taken jibes at Shivakumar because of this issue. He has instructed the cabinet ministers to only speak about any irregularities in the construction of the statue and to not oppose the construction of a statue,” the source said.
This is because Yediyurappa fears that Shivakumar could consolidate a vote bank, which is currently not antagonistic towards the BJP. “Shivakumar is trying to consolidate several vote banks so he can prove to the Congress high command that he can become the KPCC President. By making remarks against another community, the BJP would lose the opportunity to tap into that voter base,” the source said.
DK Shivakumar, however, refuted claims that he was bent on getting the statue erected due to political reasons. “People had told me they wanted a statue of Jesus Christ in Harobele as there was no statue of Christ in the area. The Kumaraswamy government had sanctioned the land. I had promised that I will help and I have done my job. It is not for politics or power. One has to do some things for self-satisfaction in life,” he said.
Controversy over alleged irregularities in land allocation
A controversy, however, erupted when BJP leaders claimed that the statue being built at Kapala Betta in Kanakapura is gomala land. Gomala land is government land reserved as pastures for animals. Gomala land cannot be diverted as a grant to erect statues under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act 1964.
According to Section 71 of the Act, lands described in revenue records, as Devarakadu, Urduve, Gunduthop, Tankbed, Phut Kharab halla, gomala, burial grounds and such lands, which in the opinion of the Government is required for, public purpose, shall not be granted for non-agricultural purposes.
Revenue Department officials say that the land was granted for erecting the statue based on the Karnataka High Court judgment in 2002. In the St Anne’s Educational Society versus the State of Karnataka, the High Court had held that gomala land does not bear the rigours of section 71 of the KLA Act.
“But gomala land can be allotted only if the land to cattle ratio is more than 50%. In this case, the ratio is close to 50% and the approval should not have been given. This ratio must be strictly maintained as the pasture land is to ensure that cattle get enough fodder,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Revenue Minister R Ashok on Monday said that Kapala Betta comes under the Karnataka Ministry of Environment and Forests and that the land chosen for erecting the statue is unviable. “We are not opposed to constructing the statue. We need to see on whose land the statue is coming up. I have asked the Ramanagara Deputy Commissioner to submit a report and a decision will be made soon,” he said.