The Congress called off its Mekedatu foot march on Thursday, which seemed like the only viable option in the face of a fast-spreading coronavirus running amok in the third wave.
â€œWe are temporarily stalling our padayatra,â€ Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah announced at a news conference along with Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar, the campaignâ€™s anchor, who looked dejected.
â€œWeâ€™re ending the march not because of cases filed against us or the BJP governmentâ€™s order, but in the interest of the health of the people. We donâ€™t want people to think that we caused a spurt in cases,â€ Siddaramaiah said.
This draws curtains on the march that lasted only four days, but not before it became a political flashpoint. The 11-day march, which started from the Sangama on Sunday, reached Ramanagara covering a distance of 60 km. By the time the march was to was to conclude at the National College grounds in Bengaluru on January 19, the Congress would have covered 154 km.
â€œOnce the third wave subsides and Covid-19 rules are eased, we will restart from Ramanagara and complete the march,â€ Siddaramaiah said.
On Wednesday, the High Court came down heavily on the Basavaraj Bommai administration and the Congress over the Mekedatu march, which was followed by a government order banning the padayatra citing Covid-19.
The decision to call off the march was taken at a meeting of senior Congress leaders at the party office in Ramanagara. According to sources, the party high command had asked Shivakumar to take a collective decision on the fate of the march keeping in mind what the High Court may say.
â€œWe don't want our rally to make things worse. Although we took all precautions, there was a concern among us that things may go out of hand,â€ Siddaramaiah said, referring to Covid-19. â€œAlso, cases are more in Bengaluru where we were to reach in two days via Bidadi and Kengeri for the valedictory on January 19 for which lakhs of people would have gathered.â€
The Congress, however, considers the 4-day march to be a success. It made enough noise to put the government on the defensive. â€œPeople welcomed our march. Women, especially, gave us blessings, greetings, food, bananas...this shows that our march was pro people, Siddaramaiah said.