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Karnataka Police book Congress leaders for violating Covid norms, but Mekedatu padayatra still on

D.K. Shivakumar, Mallikarjun Kharge and Siddaramaiah among 31 booked for violating norms in Mekedatu padayatra, BJP MLA Renukacharya participates in fair, ‘regrets’ act.

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Bengaluru: More than 24 hours after the Congress kickstarted its Mekedatu padayatra, the Karnataka government moved towards taking action against it, albeit only on paper.

After public outcry over the event that openly flouted Covid-19 norms, the Sathanoor police in Ramanagara district booked 31 people Monday, including Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka Assembly Siddaramaiah.

Although an FIR was filed, no coercive action to stop the padayatra was undertaken by the BJP government, and the Congress was allowed to continue on day two of the 10-day padayatra from Mekedatu to Bengaluru.

“We suspect that the government will try to detain us when we inch closer to Bengaluru but for now, they are not detaining us,” an office bearer of the Congress told ThePrint.

“FIR has been registered against 30 people for violating Covid-19 protocols. Ramanagara disrict administration has taken action as per law,” claimed Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra in a statement to ANI.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, speaking to the media Monday morning, had said that action would be taken without discrimination over violating Covid-19 norms. 

“Nobody will be spared, whether politician or common people. Law will follow its course,” Bomai said. It was after this statement that the FIR was registered against the Congress leaders. 

KPCC President D.K. Shivakumar, in the meantime, has dismissed the Covid-19 numbers in the state as “inflated” and refused to undergo a Covid swab test Sunday evening. 

Till Sunday midnight, Karnataka had reported 11,698 fresh Covid-19 cases and four Covid-related deaths. 

Also read: Karnataka Congress begins Mekedatu padayatra despite Covid curfew, BJP says ‘political gimmick’

 ‘Government tampering with data’

“Where are the cases? Do you see anyone in the hospital? The government is tampering with data to show inflated numbers. There is no Covid-19 rise in the state,” Shivakumar had said.

A video of Shivakumar pulling up district health officers who had arrived to collect his sample for a Covid test has gone viral. “I have doctors by my side. Can’t you see that I am well and walking? Why are you here? You cannot force me to undergo a test. I know the law of the land,” an agitated Shivakumar is seen telling the health officials in the video.

“I now learn that the officer who was sent to collect samples had tested positive for Covid-19. It looks like a ploy by the government to sabotage our padayatra,” Shivakumar alleged during a press conference Monday. He alleged that no cases were filed against events organised by the government and BJP leaders.

Notice warned against padayatra

The FIR against the Congress leaders was based on a complaint filed by the tehsildar of Kanakapura town and has charges of unlawful assembly, public nuisance, negligence endangering human life and violation of the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases act. 

The FIR claimed that Shivakumar went ahead with the ‘unlawful’ padayatra violating Covid-19 norms despite being served a government notice advising against it on 6 January.

“It is true that a notice was served asking us not to undertake the padayatra but it was not within the framework of the law. I am ready to share details of everyone who participated in the padayatra. Let them file cases against all of us, but we won’t stop the walk for water,” a defiant Shivakumar told reporters Monday.  

In a press conference later Monday, Shivakumar said that he would not interact with the media and would observe a “silent walk” for the next three days.

CM’s political secretary violates Covid norms

Meanwhile, BJP MLA from Honalli and CM Bommai’s political secretary M.P. Renukacharya was seen participating in a village fair and inaugurating rural games Monday. 

Even as the BJP was lambasting the Congress over violating Covid-19 norms on its padayatra, visuals of Renukacharya amidst heavy crowds emerged.

“When people of Balamuri village lovingly invited me to visit their fair I obliged but there was a huge gathering there and Covid-19 norms were violated. I regret the act and will ensure it isn’t repeated again,” Renukacharya declared on social media.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi) 

Also read: How Karnataka Congress plans to use Mekedatu to ‘expose BJP’s double engine growth’ promise


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