Karnataka IT minister Priyank Kharge courted controversy due to his remarks against freedom fighter VD Savarkar. (Image: News18/File)
Karnataka assembly speaker UT Khader, however, clarified that there is no proposal to remove the life-size portrait of Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar from the assembly chamber in Belagavi
Karnataka IT minister Priyank Kharge courted controversy after he said if allowed, he would remove freedom fighter and Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar’s portrait from the ‘Suvarna Vidhana Soudha’. Speaker UT Khader, however, clarified on Thursday that there is no proposal to remove the life-size picture from the assembly chamber in Belagavi.
“I am of the strong opinion that Savarkar’s photo should not be there in the assembly or in the council. If the BJP has a problem with it, it is their problem. It is my opinion that anybody whose ideology incites hatred, creates division should not be there, Savarkar’s portrait should not be there…” Kharge told news agency ANI.
The BJP threatened mass protests if Savarkar’s portrait is removed. “Priyank Kharge is ill-informed. He thinks he is one of the most educated people, but he is the most uneducated person in the assembly. If he tries to do so (remove Savarkar’s photo), protests will not only break inside the assembly but also outside,” said BJP MLA Bharath Shetty.
BJP MLC Chandrashekhar Bawankule said Kharge has insulted Savarkar and other patriots alongside him. He said the Congress has not missed a single opportunity to insult the freedom fighter. “Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge’s son Priyank Kharge, a minister in the Karnataka government, has insulted the freedom fighter Savarkar… Kharge has insulted patriots by asking this. The Congress has not missed a single opportunity to insult the freedom fighter. First, Rahul Gandhi and now Kharge… but remember one thing, the people of this country will never tolerate the disrespect of freedom fighters. Voters will also teach Congress a lesson about this contempt,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter.
काँग्रेसचे राष्ट्रीय अध्यक्ष मल्लिकार्जुन खर्गे यांचे पुत्र, कर्नाटक सरकारमधील मंत्री प्रियांक खर्गे यांनी स्वातंत्र्यवीर सावरकर यांचा अवमान केला आहे.स्वातंत्र्यवीर सावरकरांचं योगदान काय? आणि त्यांचा पराक्रम काय? असं विचारून खर्गेंनी संपूर्ण देशभक्तांचा अपमान केला आहे.… https://t.co/kSYt6UJmKQ— Chandrashekhar Bawankule (@cbawankule) December 7, 2023
The BJP also directed questions at Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, who is part of the INDIA bloc, asking him if he will be responding or even protesting against Savarkar’s “insult” by the Congress. “But I also want to ask Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, who is a member of the ‘Indi’ front, will you protest against this insult by the Congress or will you keep silent while the freedom hero Savarkar is being insulted?” Bawankule asked.
Bengaluru MP Tejasvi Surya also asked the same. “Karnataka Congress Minister Sri @PriyankKharge wants to remove Veer Savarkar’s portrait from Karnataka Vidhana Soudha. What is his alliance partner Sri @uddhavthackeray’s position on this?” he asked on X, formerly Twitter.
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) December 7, 2023
Calling Kharge a “dynast like Nehru”, Karnataka BJP leader CT Ravi also threatened strong protests if Savarkar’s picture is removed. He invited people to visit the Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands on his expense to see visit the place where the “great nationalist” underwent “untold torture” by the British.
Dear @PriyankKharge,I invite you to visit the Cellular Jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands where the great Nationalist Veer Savarkar was subjected to untold torture by the British.
All expenses will be borne by me. You can see the kind of pain and suffering Veer Savarkar went… https://t.co/tGvlHfcNw2
— C T Ravi ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) December 7, 2023
What the Speaker said
Khader said he will go by the Constitution, amid speculation that Savarkar’s portrait at ‘Suvarna Vidhana Soudha’ will be removed. “I don’t know about the matter…there is no such proposal,” Khader said in response to a question about speculation that Savarkar’s portrait will be removed and replaced with former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s.
Asked what he would do if such a proposal comes, he added: “Let it come first…”
The portrait was unveiled in December 2022, along with several national icons. Back then, it had drawn criticism from the then opposition, Congress, which had alleged that it was a unilateral decision keeping them in the dark.
Asked to respond to a question about the opinion expressed by some Congress MLAs that the photos put up were not in accordance with the protocol and had to be done as per the rule, Khader said, “What has to be done in accordance with the Constitution, I will do it… I will function in accordance with the Constitution.”
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, too, said it is left to the Speaker to decide.
Kharge, meanwhile, asked the BJP to answer his questions about Savarakar first. “Who gave the title ‘Veer’ to Savarkar? There is no clarity on it. If they (BJP) know, let them tell. Whether Savarkar was taking pension from the British or not? Did he write an apology letter (to the British) five to six times or not? Did his family write the apology letter or not? When Subhas Chandra Bose was organising the Indian National Army — did he not go against him and influence the people to join the British Army or not? What was his opinion on Gau Mata? Let BJP answer these simple questions,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)