Bangalore: From outright ridicule to pleas to spare the gods, people are reacting in various ways to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa`s challenge to his predecessor HD Kumaraswamy to repeat before a temple deity his claim that the chief minister had tried to "buy" his silence over graft charges.
Kumaraswamy Saturday accepted the Bharatiya Janata Party leader`s challenge to swear before Hindu God Manjunatha at Dharmasthala, a famous pilgrim centre about 300 km from here on the west coast, and reiterate his charge.
The two are to take the oath of truth June 27.
Yeddyurappa issued the challenge through newspaper advertisements after Kumaraswamy, state Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) president, claimed that the chief minister had been trying for over four months through an emissary to "buy my silence over graft charges against him".
The emissary was Lehar Singh Siroya, state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) treasurer and legislator, Kumaraswamy has said. Siroya has denied Kumaraswamy`s claim but admitted that he had met the JD-S leader "purely as a courtesy call."
The decision of Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy to settle their dispute before a temple deity has come in for severe criticism and ridicule from various political leaders as well as public, who are aghast that instead of seeking legal recourse to settle the issue, gods are being invoked.
"Why drag the Gods into political battles", "Don`t people swear by god and still tell lies", "It`s childish", "It`s hogwash and not many will buy it" these are some of the reaction of people.
Yeddyurappa, the BJP`s first chief minister in the state, is a staunch believer and a frequent visitor to temples and heads of religious institutions, particularly belonging to his Lingayat caste group.
Kumaraswamy is also a believer, but not a frequent visitor to temples, unlike his father H.D. Dewe Gowda, the JD-S president and a former prime minister.
"How many people Yeddyurappa will want to swear in the name of Manjunatha that they are telling the truth as almost every Congress and JD-S politician has levelled allegations against him," asked K. Ramachandra, a retired principal in Udupi, not far from Dharmasthala.
"The goings on in Karnataka these days show that only gods can save this state from going under further," said K. Vanaja, a mathematics teacher.
"It reminds me of my school days when it is pretty common to ask schoolmates to swear in the name of their parents or god that they have not stolen our notebook or eraser or pen and pencil," chuckled B. Sridhar, a bank employee.
Realising the development has evoked widespread ridicule and condemnation, Kumaraswamy has now gone on the defensive.
"If I had not accepted the challenge, people would have suspected that I am telling a lie. I stand by my statement that Yeddyurappa, through an emissary, has been trying to buy my silence," Kumaraswamy asserted on Monday.
He offered to submit to any test, "including narco-test (also known as truth-serum test) because what I am saying is the truth."
"Lehar Singh has now told half the truth (that he had met Kumaraswamy). Only why he met me is to be revealed," he told reporters.
The opposition Congress has blasted Yeddyurappa for the move.
"In a secular democracy, the only place to settle such issues is court of law. Why is Yeddyurappa shy of filing a defamation case?" asked Leader of Opposition in the assembly Siddarmaiah of the Congress.
"This is height of stupidity," remarked former state Congress president R.V. Deshpande.
However, Yeddyurappa has found support from his ministerial colleagues like Panchayati Raj Minister Jagdish Shettar.
"There is nothing wrong. Kumaraswamy`s claims cannot be allowed to go unchallenged," asserted Shettar.