Shivaraj Patil, a medical practioneer-turned-politician and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) legislator from Raichur, made a controversial statement last October in Malliabad taluk in Raichur in the presence of Karnataka Animal Husbandry Minister Prabhu Chavan.
In an apparent reference to the government’s negligent attitude towards Raichur, he said “Do us a favour, attach Raichur to Telangana”. The remark went viral on social media.
On August 16, Patil’s remarks were back in the news: Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao used Patil’s outburst to hit out at the BJP and take his on-going battle with the saffron party a notch higher. While addressing a public gathering at Vikarabad, he quipped that voters should “vote wisely” and “not be deceived by the BJP flags”.
And, after mentioning a host of his government’s social programmes, he said that even people in Raichur in Karnataka were so impressed with his welfare measures that they had demanded that their district be merged with Telangana.
With the Munugode (western Telangana) byelection around the corner, where the sitting Congress legislator Rajagopal Reddy has resigned his seat and is all set to contest on a BJP ticket, the pink party is looking for every opportunity to embarrass the BJP.
Faced with a barrage of questions over his controversial outburst, Shivaraj Patil did a volte face. Patil told Frontline: “Not one millimeter of Raichur’s land will be acceded to Telangana. Chandrashekar Rao is making these statements for publicity and as an election gimmick.”
He explained that he had made the remark “just to bring to the attention of the Karnataka government to the seriousness of the issues in Raichur. Said Patil: “I have clarified it to the party. It is a settled matter.” He accused S. Rajender Reddy, TRS legislator from the neighbouring Narayanpet constituency, of politicising the issue.
The Congress in Karnataka is certainly targeting Bommai on the issue. Speaking to Frontline, Priyank Kharge, former Minister and Chittapura legislator, criticised Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai over his silence on Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao’s remarks on Raichur. Said Kharge: “What is the Chief Minister doing to placate the hurt feelings of the people of Raichur? Even after four days, the Karnataka government has not bothered to counter Chandrashekar Rao’s statement. The Chief Minister’s inaction has encouraged the Telangana CM to boldly stake claim to Raichur. This is unacceptable.”
Accusing the Karnataka government of adopting a “step-motherly attitude” towards Karnataka and not implementing welfare schemes in Raichur, Kharge said that if it was the Belagavi border issue, the entire Cabinet would have come out in defense. “Why not for us? Does the BJP government not consider Raichur a part of Karnataka?” he said.