Ex-K’taka BJP Minister makes ‘objectionable’ remark against Mallikarjun Kharge; apologises latertext_fields
Bengaluru: Former Karnataka home minister and senior BJP leader Araga Jnanendra has come under fire for an ‘objectionable’ comment about the skin tone of Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge while addressing a gathering of party workers.
While participating in a protest in Thirthahalli in Shivamogga district on Tuesday, against the implementation of the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats, Jnanendra said, “People who are in power are not from the Malnad region and do not know anything about the woes and lifestyle of people here.”
He then went on to make the objectionable statement which sparked a controversy.
"It is a tragedy that our state has a minister of forests coming from a region which does not have forest at all. The people of north Karnataka are burnt to the core under the scorching Sun. If we see Mallikarjun Kharge, we know the plight of those people. Eshwar Khandre has some hair on his head and he could escape the scorching Sun," Jnanendra further said.
He later apologised for his remark claiming that he did not intend to target Kharge specifically.
Saying that he has immense respect towards Kharge, the BJP leader said, "I should not be mistaken otherwise.
"I was addressing a gathering of party workers on Tuesday over the statement of Forest Minister Eshwar Khadre regarding the implementation of the Kasturirangan report which is a death sentence for people of the Malnad region. I was criticising the Forest Minister Eshwar Khandre and mistakenly took the name and I apologise for the same," Jnanendra said.
The Congress termed Jnanendra’s remarks as ‘anti-Dalit’ and demanded his expulsion from the BJP. The party also carried out a protest in Bengaluru condemning the former minister’s statement.
The remarks went viral on social media on Wednesday, drawing public outrage across Karnataka.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar on Wednesday slammed the former state minister, saying that he should be sent to NIMHANS hospital for treatment of mental illness.
"The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is located in Bengaluru. It functions excellently. If Araga Jnanendra continues to speak in this fashion, he will have to be sent there," he said.
The Karnataka Congress also put a post slamming Jnanendra, seeking his apology.
"By ridiculing the skin colour of Mallikarjun Kharge, Araga Jnanendra has represented the low standards of a mindset of the BJP. He had voiced the impatience and negligence the BJP has towards Dalits," the Congress said.
"The humiliation on the skin tone is not only an insult to Mallikarjun Kharge, it is an insult to the natives of the land, Dalits. If BJP has even scant respect for Dalits, Araga Jnanendra must be expelled from the party," the Congress said.
Minister for Forest Eshwar Khandre said: "He has issued statements after losing mental balance. Legal action should be initiated against him and he should be expelled from the BJP."
Jnanendra represents the Thirthahalli Assembly constituency in the Malnad region which is abutted by the Western Ghats. Kharge hails from the Kalaburagi division in north Karnataka.