Embarrassingly for the BJP in Karnataka, which is opposing the Tipu Jayanti celebrations planned by the Congress government of chief minister Siddaramaiah, President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday waxed eloquent on the Mysuru king’s patriotism when he fought British rule.
Addressing a joint session of the Karnataka legislature on the occasion of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Vidhana Soudha, the President said: “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare. This technology was later adopted by the Europeans.”
He also lavished praise on Karnataka as a land of formidable soldiers. “Krishnadeva Raya was the greatest ruler of the Vijayanagara empire and remains an inspiration for all Indians. Kempe Gowda was the founder of Bengaluru, and Rani Chennamma of Kittur and Rani Abbakka led the earliest battles against the colonial powers. And more recently, two of the four finest Army Chiefs, Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa and Gen. K.S. Thimmayya, were sons of Karnataka,” he said.
But the Tipu reference in the speech had the BJP up in arms. It accused chief minister Siddaramaiah of doctoring the speech and altering the President’s address to include the reference to Tipu Sultan. “Such speeches for the President are usually written by the state government. He was merely mouthing it. This does not mean we will call off our agitation against Tipu Jayanti,” R. Ashok, BJP MLA and a former state home minister, told the media.
Other BJP leaders also alleged the President’s speech was deliberately put on hold until the Siddaramaiah government had vetted it and made alterations. The CM’s office strongly refuted the suggestion, saying the President’s speech was prepared by the President’s office and that they had no role to play in it whatsoever.
However, sources said that last Friday, the President’s press office approached the CM for a backgrounder on the state and the Assembly building, and the CM commissioned a veteran journalist to write a piece, which was duly sent to the President. “There was no question of amending the President’s speech. As you can see, the speech as uploaded on the Press Information Bureau website is what was delivered by Mr Kovind,” an official told this newspaper.
Sources in the BJP said a backgrounder they prepared had also been sent to President Kovind, which made no mention of Tipu or his “heroics”. A BJP leader said: “Why the President chose to go with the speech sent to him by the Congress is a mystery.”