- Was just fulfilling a promise made to the locals, said DK Shivakumar
- He laid foundation of a 114-foot tall statue in Karnataka's Harobele
- The criticism against him was out of ''jealousy'', he said
Congress's DK Shivakumar - who has been targeted by several BJP leaders this week over sponsoring a Jesus statue in his constituency - said on Friday that he was "just fulfilling a promise" made to the locals. The 57-year-old leader laid the foundation of the 114-foot tall statue in Karnataka's Harobele, about 80 km from Bengaluru, on Christmas.
"People had told me they wanted a statue of Jesus Christ in Harobele as there was no statue of Christ in the area. I had promised that I will help and I have done my job. It is not for politics or power. One has to do some things for self-satisfaction in life," the Kanakapura MLA told news agency ANI, adding that he had told the locals not to construct any statue unless the land belonged to them.
"I am from a rural constituency where people have given me love and strength. In my constituency, I have built hundreds of temples. More than 30 acres of property in three locations have been given to government education institutions. I have also bought properties and donated them to various organisations," he further said.
The Karnataka leader has been criticized by the ruling BJP over the construction of the statue. The proposed 101-foot statue atop a 13-foot pedestal will be constructed at Kapalibetta in Harobele village, a predominantly Christian locality in Kanakapura.
State Revenue Minister R Ashoka said the land for the statue is not owned by the Congress leader. The property - meant to be a pasture land for community use - is owned by the state government, he said. "It is not Shivakumar's property... it is government gomala land. I don't know in what sense he (Shivakumar) has said he has purchased and given it... no one can donate it to anyone. I have sought a report from the District Deputy Commissioner of Ramanagara," he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
In a tweet, another state minister KS Eshwarappa said: "To impress their leader, those in the Congress, who opposed the construction of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram, born in our holy country, are going to build from their own money a statue of Jesus, who was born in the Vatican."
"Even Siddaramaiah (Congress leader) cannot stop him (Shivakumar) from becoming Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president now," he added.
Another BJP MP from Mysuru, Partap Simha questioned the motive behind the statue construction. In a tweet, he asked Mr Shivakumar if he had forgotten seers of Mutts like Siddaganga, Suttur and Adichunchanagiri. "Erecting the statute of Shivakumara swami ji (Siddaganga mutt) would have been like a crown on Kapalibetta- isn't it?".
The criticism against him was out of ''jealousy'' towards his secular outlook, Mr Shivakumar said. "The HD Kumaraswamy government had cleared the land and I paid money for it," he responded amid criticism.