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Congress holds sleep-in protest in Karnataka assembly over BJP minister’s saffron flag remark

Congress legislators call for resignation of minister K.S. Eshwarappa after his comment that saffron flag may become national flag in future. Protests to continue.

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Bengaluru: MLAs and MLCs of the Congress staged an overnight protest at the Karnataka Legislative Assembly hall Thursday, with mattresses spread across the floor of House. They were calling for the resignation of state minister K.S. Eshwarappa of the BJP over his comment earlier this month that the saffron flag may become the national flag in the future.

Led by state Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar and leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah, the legislators also demanded that a sedition case be filed against Eshwarappa, a veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and minister for rural development and panchayat raj. 

“The BJP claims to be a party of nationalists and accuses anyone opposing it of being anti-national, but their own minister wants to replace the national flag with a saffron flag. What can be more anti-national than this?” Saleem Ahmed, MLC and working president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, told ThePrint.

“We are demanding K.S. Eshwarappa’s resignation and a sedition case to be filed against him,” he added. 

The legislative session was adjourned Friday for the weekend. Siddaramaiah said Friday that the Congress would continue its “day-and-night protest” over the weekend and after the House reconvenes, inside and outside the Assembly, until the end of the session. 

The Congress’s decision to stage the sleep-in came after two days of continuous protests and chaos in the legislature over Eshwarappa’s comments. In parallel, Congress and BJP leaders have also been waging a running battle over “nationalism” for days on social media. 

Eshwarappa said nothing illegal, ‘non-issue’, says CM Bommai 

A host of BJP leaders including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, former CM B.S. Yediyurappa, and Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, had attempted to dissuade the Congress from holding the overnight protest, but the opposition party refused to budge.

“The opposition has misunderstood minister Eshwarappa’s statement and is trying to create a wrong perception among the people. The opposition is showing an anti-people attitude over the issue,” Bommai told reporters Thursday night.

He added Eshwarappa had said nothing wrong or illegal, and accused the Congress of stalling the legislative session over a “non-issue”.

The protest against Eshwarappa also comes at a time when the row over educational institutions banning the wearing of hijabs has taken centre stage in the state. 

“We have raised the hijab issue in the House as well, but it is before the high court. We decided that action against Eshwarappa’s seditious comments are a priority, too,” Saleem Ahmed said when asked if more important issues were being ignored by the opposition.

Social media back-and-forth

While the BJP has been targeting the Congress over the hijab row, calling it “anti-Hindu”, the Congress has hit back, accusing the ruling party of being “anti-national” in a barrage of social media posts.

The Karnataka BJP tweeted Wednesday that the Congress “is sowing the seeds of poison among innocent children over the hijab issue outside the legislature to gain political mileage. And now, inside the legislature, they are misusing the national flag and disrespecting it. Will the people forgive them?”

In a tweet Thursday, the state Congress said, “It is ironic that the BJP, which is supporting K.S. Eshwarappa’s seditious remarks about changing the national flag, is accusing the Congress of disrespecting the Tricolour. The BJP must first learn to respect the country, the Constitution, and the national flag.”

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Tension over hijab controversy remains but Karnataka colleges to reopen today after a week


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