Karnataka: 2 ex-CMs question Ram temple funds drive, BSY justifies

Two former chief ministers of Karnataka have questioned the authenticity of an ongoing door-to-door fund collection drive in the state by Hindutva organisations, including VHP, for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Siddaramaiah of the Congress and H D Kumaraswamy of JD(S) have raised concern that the collection drive lacks transparency, as people whose associations cannot be verified are purportedly knocking at homes around the state to collect funds.

The two former CMs spoke on the issue this week shortly after Kumaraswamy claimed that some people came to his house and demanded funds, allegedly in an intimidatory tone. He said their authenticity was unverifiable

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, BJP leaders and the VHP have objected to the remarks. Yediyurappa has said, “The donations are voluntary; no coercion is involved. Opposition leaders should not create confusion. Those criticising must understand that Hindus, Muslims and Christians are all donating funds.”

State VHP organising secretary Basavaraj has stated that volunteers of “various organisations, including VHP”, are reaching out to “all sections of society”, and that they do not “demand” money.

Siddaramaiah has said, “Will they give an account of the funds being collected in the name of Ram Mandir? They collected bricks earlier; what happened to them? Have they publicly disclosed the use of funds and material such as bricks collected in the past?”

The Congress leader was referring to fund collection for the temple in the late-1980s.

In a sharp attack on the BJP-led government in the state, and even the Centre, he said, “There has been no disclosure until now of funds collected under the PM Cares Fund for Covid-19. When they have not disclosed funds collected under PM Cares, we cannot expect disclosure for funds collected for the temple. In local parlance, this is all considered money going into God’s account (or money that should be forgotten).”

Siddaramaiah said people had approached him for funds, but “I said I cannot donate because there was a dispute over the land and I will donate if it is for any other Ram temple”. He said, “I will donate for Ram temple at other places because some controversies still remain over the temple at Ayodhya. I will contribute to a temple in my village — a Ram Mandir is a Ram Mandir, wherever it is located.”

Maintaining that the collection should be “transparent and accountable”, Kumaraswamy has said, “I am not opposed to the construction of Ram Temple, but vagrants and street goons are also collecting funds for the temple. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that everything is over board.”

The JD(S) leader has also objected to the alleged “Nazi-style” profiling of people who did not offer donations by putting up stickers on homes of certain donors. “It appears those collecting donations…have been separately marking houses of those who paid money and those who did not,” he said. “This is similar to what Nazis did in Germany, when lakhs of people lost their lives.”

Kumaraswamy also asked, “Who has given (them) permission to collect funds door to door – even in villages? Is it the VHP? Are those collecting funds members of the VHP? How will these funds be accounted for in public domain?”

Kumaraswamy said funds were collected earlier during the floods, and “we know it was used for purposes other than flood relief by some people”.

He said funds were also collected in the 1980s, along with steel and bricks for the temple’s construction in Ayodhya, during the Rath Yatra, but there was no account of what was collected. “The VHP claims it has collected Rs 150 crore, and this may be the official amount. But how much is being collected unofficially? All kinds of people are collecting,” Kumaraswamy said.

“The VHP takes serious note of baseless allegations made by an individual who held the highest office of the state…” Basavaraj said, referring to Kumaraswamy.

The JD(S) leader, in turn, has said, “We have not done politics in the name of Ram or used religion. Today corruption is taking place in the name of religion. This is religious corruption.”

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