Amid rising COVID-19 cases in Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and former chief minister and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah had tested positive earlier this week. Both took to Twitter to inform them about their health conditions.
Over the past few weeks, at least 15 politicians (MLAs, MPs and ministers) have tested positive for COVID-19 in Karnataka. While some were keen on public engagements to prove they were politically active, many ignored the COVID protocols issued by the health department.
Politicians across party lines toed the line on safety measures. It reflected the seriousness with which party members functioned even as the government said a complete lockdown was not a solution to the pandemic after cases started to mount in July.
Three big events — the incumbent BJP government’s first-anniversary celebration starting last week of July, DK Shivakumar’s anointment as the chief of the Congress in early July and the party’s protest in Bangalore against the Yediyurappa government over alleged corruption charges in PPE procurement — seem to have added to the risk among legislators.
Besides the two top leaders from the BJP and Congress, Anand Singh (BJP), tourism minister CT Ravi (BJP), agriculture minister BC Patil (BJP), Ajay Singh from Jewargi (Congress), TD Raje Gowda from Sringeri (JDS), Abbayya Prasad of Hubballi-Dharwad East (Congress), Sharath Bachgowda from Hoskote Assembly (independent), HD Ranganath from Kunigal (Congress), Rajkumar Patil Teklur from Sedam (BJP), Member of Parliament Sumalatha Ambareesh (Independent), Paranna Munavalli from Koppal (BJP), Bhagwanth Khuba from Bidar (BJP), Dr Y Bharath Shetty from Mangalore North (BJP) tested positive for COVID-19 since July.
Days after Karnataka Congress held its president DK Shivakumar’s swearing-in ceremony, health officials sealed the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) head office in Bangalore as a few Congress legislators tested positive for COVID-19.
Also, the chief minister testing positive comes in the backdrop of public events he had attended over the past week. With the need to keep political activities unhindered, the chief minister, who kept pleading people to maintain physical distance and requested them not to attend mass gatherings, himself did not adhere to these protocols. The health department’s advisory for senior citizens asked them to stay home and avoid meeting visitors besides suggesting nor to go to crowded places like parks, markets and religious places.
At 77, the chief minister attended the party function to mark the one-year celebration, performed bhoomi pooja for a life sciences park, inaugurated metro tunnelling work,. met Governor Vajubhai Vala and felicitated scientist Dr K Kasturirangan for his contribution to the New Education Policy unveiled by the union government last week. Given their age, they will be placed in home quarantine and also be tested for COVID-19. All the three deputy CMs who came in contact with the CM are currently under home quarantine.
Even as the chief minister reiterated that the government actions were swift in controlling the pandemic and government hospitals were well equipped to handle the cases, he and Siddaramaiah were admitted to a private hospital in the city. Doctors maintained that both of their health conditions remained stable.
In the Congress party’s rally against the BJP government over alleged corruption in the PPE procurement, some workers downed their masks and failed to maintain physical distancing. The city police however detained them and took them in a bus before they could reach the governor’s office. The administration said they were detained due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But some politicians refused to budge and flouted the norms in a brazen manner. BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje in July visited Chamundeshwari Temple (in Chamundi hills) in Mysuru despite a ban imposed on visiting temples amid the pandemic. The MP came under criticism for having used VVIP powers to visit the temple.
Again, Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi who visited Delhi last week to meet senior leaders and returned to Bangalore and subsequently met the Chief Minister refused to go under home quarantine.
“I don’t need to undergo quarantine as I maintained a safe distance of 10-15 ft during my meeting with the chief minister,” Savadi told journalists after inaugurating an office of the Assistant Regional Transport Officer in Athani, Belagavi.
In May, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Sadananda Gowda was mired in controversy after flying to Bengaluru from Delhi and skipped the mandatory quarantine norms. He claimed that union ministers and state ministers were exempt from the quarantine norms. His action forced the state to issue an addendum to the guidelines issued before.
“I am also looking after pharma. It is my duty to ensure that there is no shortage of medicine supply in the country. If I don’t do that, then the number of cases will double,” Hindustan Times quoted him as saying. “If doctors are quarantined, if people who supply medicines are quarantined, how will we beat the virus?”