Bangalore, July 24 (IANS) The Congress, the main opposition party in Karnataka, is all set to begin a 320-km ‘padayatra (walk)’ Sunday from Bangalore to Bellary to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s powerful ministers, the Reddy brothers, over illegal mining.
As Congress leaders and workers gather here Sunday to begin the long march, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will be on his way to the pilgrimage centre of Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Kashmir to pray for rains as monsoon has been erratic in the state.
The BJP plans to counter the Congress padayatra by organising four rallies in August, beginning with Davangere in central Karnataka, Gulbarga in north, Mysore in south and the last one in Bellary, state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa told reporters here Saturday.
The Congress’ walk will conclude with a rally Aug 9 in Bellary, the political base of Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy, his elder brother Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and the younger G. Somashekara Reddy, a member of the assembly.
Though planned against the backdrop of the Reddy brothers and their supporting legislators from Bellary daring opposition members to visit the iron-ore rich district, the Congress is saying the walk is not against individuals.
Christened ‘Nada rakshanege nadige’ (walk to protect Karnataka), it is meant to highlight not only rampant illegal mining in the state but also ‘all-round failure of the BJP’ during its two year rule, state Congress chief R.V. Deshpande told reporters here Friday.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramiah, of the Congress, Saturday met Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to apprise him of the rally and need for granting protection to it as the party fears trouble from Reddy supporters.
Siddaramaiah had last week charged that Health Minister B. Sriramulu, a staunch Reddy follower, had visited the central jail in Bangalore and met criminals from Bellary and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh lodged there.
‘Why did he meet the criminals, that too only from Bellary and Andhra Pradesh after we had announced the padayatra to Bellary,’ Siddaramaiah wondered talking reporters last week.
After meeting the governor Saturday, he said: ‘The government will be solely responsible for any incident during our march and rally in Bellary.’
BJP had earlier shot down a proposal by Sriramulu to counter the Congress walk by organising a padayatra from Bellary to Mysore, the stronghold of Siddaramaiah.
With monsoon playing truant in most parts of Karnataka, according to the data from June 1 to July 21 available with the meteorological department, the chief minister is headed to seek divine intervention.
‘I will visit Vaishno Devi temple Sunday to pray for rains,’ Yeddyurappa told reporters in New Delhi Saturday on the margins of the National Development Council meeting addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The met data shows 15 percent less rain than the normal 1,716 mm in coastal parts and 16 percent less than normal of 296 mm in southern parts. Only in some northern parts of Karnataka, there has been 16 percent excess rain than the normal of 179mm.
The less than normal monsoon so far has meant continuing power shortage, apart from delay in sowing operations in most parts of the state.