Former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s comment on the donation drive for the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has snowballed into a political slugfest, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and several BJP leaders taking exception to it. Meanwhile, Mr. Kumaraswamy’s political rival and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday also questioned the donation collection drive ‘Sri Ram Mandir Nidhi Samarpana Abhiyan’.
Mr. Kumaraswamy, who stoked the controversy with his statements on Monday, told reporters that he had not mentioned the name of any organisation. “Who has given permission to raise donations? They require government permission for it. On what basis are people collecting money on the streets and in every village? To whom will they give accounts? Money is being raised by whipping up emotions,” he said.
He sought to clarify that he was not opposed to the Ram Mandir construction or the donation drive. “I had specific information about the homes of those who had not paid being marked. Why are you creating anxiety among people?” he asked. “In the past, money was collected for bricks. Did they give any accounts? I have said this as a responsible person, that Ram’s name should not be misused or used to loot gullible people.”
The VHP dubbed as “highly irresponsible” Mr. Kumaraswamy’s statement on homes being marked, the VHP said that the volunteers of various organisations were reaching out to all sections of society, which was responding “positively”. “The volunteers do not even demand money from people. The outreach is merely to enable the whole country to take part or contribute as everyone believes strongly that Sri Ram is the identity of Bharat,” said Basavaraj, Karnataka organising secretary of the VHP, in a statement. “The former Chief Minister does not even check the facts or provide any before making such remarks. The VHP takes serious note of the baseless allegations made by an individual who held the highest office in the State and condemns the unwarranted remarks on the patriotic organisation of the RSS. The VHP also expresses concern over the degradation in public discourse coming from a former Chief Minister.”
Mr. Kumaraswamy’s statement also attracted the wrath of BJP Ministers and leaders. Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, without naming the JD(S) leader, said those opposed to the donation drive for political reasons would meet the end of Ravana, the antagonist in Ramayana.
One of the trustees of the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, Sri Vishwa Prasanna Tirtha Swami of Udupi Pejawar Mutt, categorically rejected Mr. Kumaraswamy’s charges of “Nazi-styled” profiling of people who have not donated. The seer said the fund collection drive had received an overwhelming response, resulting in a shortage of coupons and receipt books. “If at all a list of households was prepared, it was to help volunteers to return to those houses later to collect funds and issue proper receipts,” he said.
BJP general secretary C.T. Ravi asked for details of the homes that were allegedly being marked. “People from across religions and castes are voluntarily donating. Let him provide details as to whose homes have been marked,” he said. He added that as against the target of ₹1,000 crore, ₹1,500 crore had been collected in donations so far.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters in Delhi that he had also been approached for donation, but he had refused to contribute. “My house has not been marked. I have told them clearly that I will not donate to the Ram Mandir on disputed land, but am willing to donate to a Ram Mandir to be constructed elsewhere.”
He, however, asked the organisers about what happened to the money collected earlier. “They have collected money and bricks in the past. They threw the bricks outside the city [Ayodhya]. Have they given an account of the money collected?” he asked.