BELAGAVI/BENGALURU: The Congress party and the Siddaramaiah government has landed in a fresh row over the Belagavi border dispute with KPCC women’s wing president Lakshmi Hebbalkar’s alleged speech at a recent Ganesha festival programme which has invited the wrath of the opposition and pro-Kannada outfits.
Lakshmi, who was a guest at the programme held at Basarikatti village in Belagavi district had said that she will raise the ‘Jai Maharashtra’ slogan if the border dispute case in Supreme Court goes in favour of Maharashtra. She also said she will not fear anyone and not even hesitate to speak anything pro-Maharashtra if the dispute in the Supreme Court goes in favour of Maharashtra.
Lakshmi, who had lost to the previous Assembly election from Belagavi Rural segment under which Basarikatti falls, is preparing to contest again from the same seat. As both Kannada and Marathi speakers are in equal number in the segment, it was said she had said this to please Marathi voters.
The reported statement has triggered strong protests from pro-Kannada outfits with Kannada Chaluvali leader Vatal Nagaraj demanding her sacking from the Congress post within 24 hours. The activists burnt her in effigy and have threatened to launch state-wide protest if she is not sacked.
Lakshmi conveys regret
As the issue threatened to snowball into a major controversy, Lakshmi issued a clarification stating that her speech had been incorrectly interpreted. “Only selective parts of my speech have been doing the rounds on social media and projected in a manner that brings discredit to me and to the party. I have great respect for my motherland.”She also expressed her regret if “anybody was offendend” by her speech.
Shobha demands action
BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje has demanded that the state government file a criminal case against Lakshmi for her “anti-Karnataka” statement and to sack her from her post as the State Mahila Congress President.
CM defends Mahila Congress chief
CM Siddaramaiah has defended Lakshmi Hebbalkar. Reacting to the attack from the opposition and pro-Kannada outfits, Siddaramaiah said, “Having known Lakshmi, it is unlikely that she would have made such a statement in support of Maharashtra. She has been misquoted by the media. Her statement has been partially reported leading to controversy.” KPCC president G Parameshwara, speaking to reporters, said he will examine the Lakshmi’s statement and under what circumstances she made it. Appropriate action will be taken after examining the video tape of the speech.