BJP MLAs Ashwath Narayan, Harish Poonja booked for ‘threatening’, ‘taunting’ Siddaramaiah

Based on separate complaints from Congress workers, the Karnataka police registered FIRs in Mysuru and Belthangady.

ByBellie Thomas

Published May 25, 2023 | 9:43 PM Updated May 25, 2023 | 9:44 PM

Harish Poonja, Dr Ashwath Narayan, and CM Siddaramaiah

Two BJP MLAs — one in Bengaluru and the other in Dakshina Kannada — are in the dock after the Karnataka police registered FIRs against them based on complaints from Congress workers.

The two lawmakers are accused of criminal intimidation and inciting or promoting enmity between different groups in Karnataka.

The first of them is former higher education minister and IT-BT Minister Ashwath Narayan, an MLA from the Malleswaram constituency. The second is Belthangady MLA Harish Poonja.

Also read: BJP MLA Muniratha booked for hate speech against Christians

Case against Ashwath Narayan

Ashwath Narayan has been booked under IPC Sections 506 (criminal intimidation) and 153 (promoting enmity between two groups) based on a complaint filed by KPCC spokesperson M Lakshmana (58) on Wednesday at the Devaraj Police Station in Mysuru.

Lakshmana, in his complaint, stated that Ashwath Narayan addressed a public gathering in the Sathanoor village in the Mandya district on 15 February as a part of election campaigning, where he told the audience that Siddaramaiah had to be finished in the way Vokkaliga chieftains Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda had killed Tipu.

South First had reported on Ashwath Narayan’s speech at the time.

It may be noted that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda are fictional siblings created by recently-resigned Rangayana director Addanda Cariappa, who in his play Tipu Nija Kanasugalu claimed that the Vokkaliga siblings killed Tipu Sultan. It is a historically established fact that the ruler of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom was killed fighting the British.

The Congress deemed it a call for murder. Its leaders demanded an apologetic Ashwath Narayan’s ouster from the Cabinet, while Siddaramaiah asked him to “get a gun”.

After Ashwath Narayan’s speech went viral on social media, Lakshmana and a group of Congress workers on 17 February approached the Devaraj Police Station with a complaint.

However, the police did not entertain them and took no action on their complaint.

Subsequently, when Siddaramaiah went to visit the Kodagu district after heavy rain and the havoc it wreaked in the district, a group of Hindutva activists heckled him and even hurled eggs at his car.

The Madikeri police registered a case against the antisocial elements after this incident.

Lakshmana stated that Ashwath Narayan incited the crowd with his speech in Sathanur, which had gone viral on social media.

He said the BJP leader had given a thrust to the Hindutva activists to threaten Siddaramaiah.

Related: Register hate speeches cases even if there is no complaint, says SC

Harish Poonja also booked

Belthangady MLA Harish Poonja has also been booked. He addressed a gathering in his constituency where he called out Siddaramaiah the murderer of 24 Hindu activists.

Belthangandy Congress Women’s Wing president Namitha K Poojary, in her complaint to the police, said that Belthangady BJP Mandal president Jayanth Kotyan organised a felicitation event for Harish Poonja — the newly elected MLA of the constituency — on 22 May. The event was organised at the Kinniyamma Convention Hall.

Poojary, in her complaint, stated that Harish Poonja’s speech at the event went viral on social media.

He said he was a Hindu activist was and working for the cause of Hindutva, in an apparent jibe at one Sathyanit Surathkal, a Hindu activist who went on to support his opponent and Congress candidate Rakshith Shivaram in the election, she said.

Poonja, in his speech, asked how Sathyanit supported Siddaramaiah, who had allegedly murdered 24 Hindu activists.

He also said when a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy were in a love affair and were caught by Hindu activists who took them to the police, he got the girl released from the station and asked the police not to file any complaint.

When cows were being illegally transported and when Hindu activists attempted to stop it, they were being booked by the police, which he intervened and stopped, he said.

Poojary, in her complaint, stated that Poonja caused a rift and animosity between Hindus and Muslims with his speech.

Given the fact that there was no FIR or any other evidence that Siddaramaiah murdered 24 Hindu activists, she as a Women’s Wing President of the Congress, filed a complaint against Poonja and the organiser of the event.

Based on her complaint, the police booked Poonja and the event’s organiser Jayanth Kotyan under IPC Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 505(1)B (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public), 505(1)C (with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community), and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes).

However, in both cases, the police are yet to issue notices to the accused MLAs and summon them for questioning.

Related: Action demanded against ‘unchecked’ hate speeches in Karnataka