The story so far:Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to unveil the 108-feet bronze statue of Bengaluru founder Kempegowda on the premises of Bengaluru International Airport in Devanahalli on November 11.
Former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa announced plans to install a bronze statue of Kempegowda at the city’s international airport at the cost of ₹100 crore in the year 2019. Vokkaliga leader and higher education, IT/BT, minister Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, as vice-chairperson of the Kempegowda Heritage Area Development Authority has spearheaded the project.
Government names it ‘Statue of prosperity’:
The state government has named it the “Statue of Prosperity” on the lines of “Statue of Unity” of Sardar Patel in Gujarat unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since Kempegowda, a chieftain of Yelahanka credited to be the founder of Bengaluru and also developing around 1,000 lakes in the city to cater the need of drinking water and also for the agricultural needs, the state government named the statue ‘Statue of prosperity’, officials said.
The statue stands a mammoth 108 feet tall and weighs 220 tons. “This is the land of Kempegowda. The airport has been named after him. It is apt to have his statue here. It is a symbol of the state’s progress too. He is a great visionary who built Bengaluru. When Bengauluru is growing at a rapid pace, his statue will be an inspiration for all the development works of the government,” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had said recently.
Politics behind statue:
The ruling BJP that hasn’t enjoyed a loyal vote base among Vokkaligas, one of the two prominent land owning communities of the state, is keen on expanding their footprint in the community and there by in the Old Mysuru region where the party is weak.
While the party has a loyal vote bank among Lingayats, mainly concentrated in North Karnataka, their lack of support in the Old Mysuru region has prevented them from getting a simple majority in the state till now, party strategists feel. Both times, BJP has formed governments in the state in 2008 and 2019 poaching MLAs from other parties under Operation Kamala. “The party leadership has understood that the Vokkaliga votes are very important to win a clear majority in the next assembly elections. The Central leadership including Home Minister Amit Shah has told the state leaders to work on strategies to build ground level cadre in the Vokkaliga heartland,” said a senior BJP leader to The Hindu.
Presently, H. D. Devegowda and H. D. Kumaraswamy led JDS and D. K. Shivakumar led Congress are vying for the vokkaliga vote. Significantly, Mr. Yediyurappa announced the Kempegowda statue project in 2019 after a massive protest by the community alleging the Union government agencies were targeting Mr. Shivakumar and Mr. Kumaraswamy. Mr. Shivakumar has since been made the state Congress chief. Mr. Yediyurappa also constituted a Vokkaliga Development Board and allotted it ₹500 Crore.
Government on a campaign to collect mud from across the State
Meanwhile, ahead of the unveiling ceremony of 108-feet bronze statue of Bengaluru founder Kempegowda on the Bengaluru International Airport premises, the State government launched a 45-day campaign. During the campaign, which was launched by Mr Basavaraj Bommai mud will be collected from lakes, ponds, kalyanis, rivers, pushkarinis, and streams in all the villages of the State. The mud will also be collected from the houses of achievers in various fields across the State too. This would be used in developing the theme park that houses the statue.
The theme park will be developed on 23 acres where the statue has also come up. A total of 46 locations linked to the history of Bengaluru will also be given a facelift, helping people acknowledge the contribution of Kempegowda, Dr. Ashwath Narayan said.