Karnataka BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde booked for ‘demolish mosques’ call, communal rhetoric ahead of polls

Meanwhile, Karnataka BJP leaders have distanced themselves from the former Union minister's statements, which also targeted CM Siddaramaiah.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 15, 2024 | 6:46 PMUpdatedJan 15, 2024 | 6:47 PM

BJP's Uttara Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde. (Supplied)

In a resurgence marked by controversial remarks, the BJP’s Uttara Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde has kicked off a fresh row with Islamophobic statements and calls for violence.

It has since prompted the Karnataka police to register a suo-motu case against him.

Known for his provocative rhetoric, Hegde this time targeted Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and made derogatory remarks during a party workers’ meeting in Kumta on Saturday, 14 December.

The BJP leader asserted that certain mosques in Uttar Kannada were once Hindu temples and proclaimed intentions to demolish them.

Leaders of the Congress’ Karnataka unit, including Cabinet ministers, have condemned the remarks and demanded disciplinary action against him from the BJP.

On the other hand, several BJP leaders have distanced themselves from the Uttar Kannada MP’s remarks and also suggested that Hegde not criticise anyone singularly in future.

Also read: Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah says UCC an unnecessary controversy

Controversial resurgence

After being inactive in politics for more than two years owing to health issues, Anantkumar Hegde has made a comeback on a controversial note, by making Islamophobic statements and targeting CM Siddaramaiah recently.

The former Union minister said: “We will demolish these mosques no matter what. The mosque in Bhatkal’s Chinnadapalli Masjid was a Hindu temple, the biggest mosque in Shirsi’s CP Bazar was a Vijaya Vittala temple. The largest mosque in Mandya’s Srirangapatna is the Maruti Temple. The Maruti idol can be seen even today.”

He continued: “There are desecrated symbols in every corner of the country, in every nook and cranny of villages. Until it is torn down, Hindu society has no reason to sit back. Some may consider it a threat. What it is is a guarantee that this is the decision of the Hindu society and not the decision of Anantkumar Hegde.”

The BJP MP added that destroying these mosques and building temples on them was only a vision of Hindu society.

“This is revenge, revenge, revenge… If a thousand years of revenge is not taken then it is not Hindu blood. Ours is not a debt-ridden society, it is a debt-paying society. We have a debt of a thousand years. If we sit idly by without paying it, Hindu blood will be blackened, and the first beginning has begun with Ram Janmabhoomi,” said Hegde.

He added: “The entire Hindu society was divided in the name of caste, region, and language. People like Murkharamaiah (referring to Siddaramaiah) are still breaking religions. However, if Hindu society stands together today, a new victory should be seen in the next century.”

Referring to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the BJP MP said: “Amit Shah had said that we should not get a rebirth: This time victory should be so resounding that even we should not be able to erase.”

He continued: “This life will end. Even the death of the next birth should occur today. This kind of blow should be inflicted on our opponents. Our adversaries leave a crazy worm in our heads. He said that anti-Hinduism and anti-Sanatani are our opponents.”

Also read: BJP leader V Somanna asks RS seat, charge of 3 LS seats

Hegde attacks Siddaramaiah

Over the consecration ceremony of Lord Rama in Ram Mandir at Ayodhya on 22 January, Hegde asserted that Siddaramaiah — and not the Congress — was the opponent of Hindu society.

He said: “The Congress is not our opponent. We are fighting only because of politics. Our opponent is Siddaramaiah. We oppose his conscience which has been auctioned for the benefit of the minority.”

Hegde continued: “In a democracy, one party will come, one party will go. It is common. However, we are opposed to a fast-paced mentality.”

Hegde also said: “He (Siddaramaiah) said he had not received the Ram Janmabhoomi consecration ceremony’s invitation letter. Even if it comes later, he said, he will not go. If you come or not, Ram Janmabhoomi will not stop, magane (referring to Siddaramaiah as ‘son’ in singular).”

Then, he said, “First, he said whether he received an invitation or not, he would not go. Now, he is saying he will go. This is the strength of Hindu society. His voice changed in the span of just eight days.”

Also read: Karnataka BJP MP Pratap Simha’s brother arrested in Bengaluru

The police case

A day after Hegde’s most recent controversial statements, Uttara Kannada’s Kumta Police booked the MP for non-bailable offence on Sunday.

The Kumta police registered a suo motu case against under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 153 A (promoting animosity between different groups) and 505 (statements leading to public mischief). Both sections pertain to non-bailable offences.

Uttara Kannada Superintendent of Police (SP) N Vishnuvardhana confirmed to South First: “An FIR has been registered against the MP. We registered a suo motu case based on the video evidence.”

He added: “We have collected several pieces of video evidence of his remarks. The investigation is underway. We have not served any notices to the MP connected to the case.”

Also read: Farmers wish for drought to get loan waiver, says minister

Congress leaders condemn remarks

Karnataka Congress leaders, including senior Cabinet ministers Ramalinga Reddy and Dinesh Gundu Rao, condemned the statements and came down heavily on the BJP parliamentarian.

In his post on X, Minister for Transport and Muzrai Ramalinga Reddy said: “Your words reflect what your culture is. Is this the culture taught by the BJP, RSS and your parents? Is this your way of thinking?”

He added: “The speech and the words used show your mental state. When you were a Union minister, you had said that you had come to power to change the Constitution. Now, these kinds of remarks. If there is any dignity and etiquette left for the BJP, disciplinary action should be taken against you. You should also tender an apology to the people of Karnataka.”

Hitting out at Hegde, Karnataka Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Gundu Rao said: “The culture of the Uttara Kannada MP can be understood by his words. In terms of age and experience, Anantkumar is no match for Siddaramaiah.”

He added: “Siddaramaiah is a voice of the oppressed community. Hegde, who is poisoned with bigotry, addressing the chief minister as ‘magane’ (son) in singular, has exposed the dirty mentality of the BJP MP.

Congress leaders have also launched a statewide protest against Hegde’s remarks and demanded stringent action against him.

Also read: Siddaramaiah Cabinet withdraws nod for CBI probe against DKS

Siddaramaiah hits back

Countering Hegde, Siddaramaiah asserted: “Culture means humanity. A person should have humanity first.”

Siddaramaiah told reporters in Haveri on Monday: “Anantkumar Hegde was missing until recently. As the (Lok Sabha) elections are approaching, he is making such statements.”

He added: “Being an MP and former Union minister, has Hegde done anything for the development of his constituency? Has he listened to the grievances of the poor?”

Earlier, the chief minister criticised Hegde’s remarks on similar lines, saying that his statements reflected his culture.

Responding to this, Hegde told reporters on Sunday: “At least this way the chief minister came to know about culture. I am not afraid of any cases.”

Also read: BJP, JD(S) see ‘transfer scam’ in Siddaramaiah-son phone call

Damage control

Controversies have long been synonymous with Hegde, who previously served as the Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet.

Given Hegde’s penchant for controversy, there have been instances when the BJP leadership distanced itself from his contentious remarks.

For example, the party’s central leadership in 2020 demonstrated a willingness to address and reprimand Hegde for his statement that the Independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi was mere “drama”.

The BJP’s Karnataka unit leaders have distanced themselves from Hegde’s current remarks as well.

Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi suggested that Hegde did not address anyone in particular.

“It is Siddaramaiah who started this culture of addressing everyone in singular. I suggest to Anantkumar that he has all the right to criticise but not in singular,” said Joshi.

He also questioned the police action against the BJP MP for his remarks.

Party veteran V Sommanna told reporters in Bengaluru on Monday: “I have seen his statements and also observed them. Hegde is a senior leader. He talks without a filter, like me.”

He added: “Siddaramaiah is the chief minister of Karnataka. Why should we stoop low because they talk about anything? We should not stoop low. It is left to Siddaramaiah’s conscience how he speaks. But Hegde comes from a cultured family. If we don’t keep our language in control, then…. For me personally, I am not irritated.”

He further said: “While speaking instead of considering it others, Siddaramaiah is the representative of seven crore populace of Karnataka. He has become the chief minister. I don’t want to know how his language and actions are, but our actions must be different from them.”

Former Karnataka deputy chief minister and BJP leader Dr CN Ashwath Narayan also distanced himself from Hegde’s remarks, stating that they were “his personal opinions”.

“I do not want to make any statements about that. PM Narendra Modi has called upon the people to ensure harmony, unity, and respect for all religions,” he replied when asked about Hegde’s remarks.

Similarly, Vijayapura City MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal also distanced himself from Hegde’s comments.

However, his move sparked another controversy as the BJP MLA has written a letter to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) demanding a survey of all the mosques reportedly constructed over Hindu and Jain temples in Vijayapura.

Yatnal told reporters in Vijayapura on Sunday: “We have already written a letter to the ASI. There was a Jain temple, a Narasimha temple, and a Shiva temple. They should conduct surveys similar to those done with Qutub Minar. There are enough Hindu architectures there; we are not exaggerating. There are Nandi, pictures of Hindus, and Lotus flowers — all integral to Hindu culture.”

He added: “If we receive a positive response [from the ASI], we will go to the court and request permission.”