The Karnataka government is considering changing the name of the Indira canteens in the state.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Revenue Minister R Ashok said that BJP MLA Rajugouda from Shorapur constituency had approached him with a request to change the name of the Indira Canteens and name it after Maharishi Valmiki, the Sanskrit sage, who according to mythology, authored the Ramayana.
“Rajugouda requested me to change the name of Indira Canteens to Maharishi Valmiki Anna Canteens. If we change it, it will be in all areas outside of Bengaluru,” Minister R Ashoka said.
No decision on the matter has been taken yet, and the approval of Chief Minister Yediyurappa will be required before officially changing the name. However, critics say that this move is to wrest control from Congress strongholds in the state.
The Valmiki Nayak community is an ST community in northern and east-central Karnataka, specifically in Belagavi, Ballari, Yadagir, Bagalkote, and Vijaypura. They follow traditions based on the teachings of Valmiki. They also reside in other districts of North Karnataka.
The community has traditionally voted for the Congress as it has several leaders from the Valmiki Nayak community. In the previous election, however, Ramesh Jarkiholi, a member of the Valmiki Nayak community from Gokak in Belagavi was able to successfully get his constituents to elect him into power through the BJP after he rebelled from the Congress. It was Ramesh Jarkiholi who sparked the MLA exodus from the Congress-JD(S) coalition.
BJP sources say that the government has been wanting to change the name of the canteens ever since it assumed power in July this year.
The source told TNM, "This move is to assure the Valmiki Nayak community that the BJP is here to support them. So far, the community has largely voted for the Congress and apart from bringing in Ramesh Jarkiholi, who is from the community, this is a next step to break into the Congress' vote bank," the source said.
Former CM Siddaramaiah in a tweet at first condemned the move to change the name of the canteens, but in a later tweet, said that he has great respect for Valmiki. However, he added that he is upset that the BJP is changing the Indira canteen’s name for political reasons.
“There is a news that the BJP wants to name Indira Canteens after Maharshi Valmiki. We have great respect for Maharishi Valmiki but it is sad that BJP is using his name for political reasons,” Siddaramaiah said.
#IndiraGandhi fought for the rights of poor & took measures to address the issues of hunger. She is not just @INCIndia leader but a leader for the whole nation. She protected the interests of common man.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) December 17, 2019
This was the reason for naming the canteen after her.#SaveIndiraCanteen
Maharshi Valmiki is a great poet who wrote epic Ramayana. He is an inspiration for many of us for his rise inspite of being born in tribal sect.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) December 17, 2019
Let the govt implement scheme that complements his achievements and name it after him. I shall welcome the same.#SaveIndiraCanteen