On Tuesday, October 30, while speaking to a private news channel, mining baron and former Karnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy said, 'In Ramayana, king Dasaratha was cursed by the parents of a young boy for accidentally killing him. Similarly, I too was separated from my children for four and a half years and God has punished the man responsible for that, by separating him from his son’.
This personal attack, seen by many as a new low in politics, has been disparaged by political leaders across Karnataka, across party lines.
Janardhana Reddy was alluding to the untimely death of Siddaramaiah's son Rakesh in Antwerp University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium on 30th July 2016 after a pancreatic ailment worsened and he passed away because of multi-organ failure.
Now, as campaigning for by-elections in the state has picked up the pace, in the mining hub of Ballari, the Congress leadership along with JDS had several rallies to showcase strength and unity. In all those speeches, multiple references have been made by leaders, particularly, Siddaramaiah, against the Reddy brothers.
Siddaramaiah, reacting to the comment took to Twitter minutes later and said in Kannada, ‘Janardhana Reddy said that my son's death was a punishment for me. I will pray to God that your children should not be punished for your sins.’. On Wednesday, speaking to reporters, he also added that Reddy is a man with humanity and culture and such low remarks can be expected from someone like him.
Deputy Chief minister G Parameshwara said ‘No matter what the situation is, such personal comments cannot be accepted’. KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao added, ‘politics over a family member’s death shows his dirty mind, it tarnishes his own image.
Reddy’s remark has attracted criticism from many from his own party. Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, distancing himself from the statement said, ‘Janardhana Reddy should apologize for this. Losing a son is extremely heartbreaking. I condemn such a remark’.
Former law minister and BJP legislator Suresh Kumar were one of the first to openly castigate Reddy. Kumar took to social media and tweeted, ‘Using the context of the death of the son of an opposition party leader during campaigning is most inhumane. May nobody has to learn the pain of losing a son. Do not lose humanity.’
Though the campaigning is for by-elections, the political intensity is increasing and all three parties have made it an issue of prestige and show of strength.