The Karnataka Congress on Thursday suspended its Mekedatu padayatra, a 10-day rally on foot, after five of its leaders tested positive for coronavirus, reported The Indian Express.
Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and party veteran Veerappa Moily are among those who tested positive, according to NDTV. Moily and Kharge had participated in the inauguration ceremony of the rally on January 9.
“We have been successful in the last five days,” said Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. “We were supposed to end the padayatra in Bengaluru. Because of the third wave, we have to postpone it for now.”
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who tested positive for Covid-19 for the second time on Monday, appealed to the Congress leaders to call off the rally, reported ANI. He assured them that the Mekedatu project will be implemented.
The project entails building a reservoir in a deep gorge at the confluence of the Cauvery river with its tributary Arkavathi in the Ramanagara district. The project aims to provide drinking water to Bengaluru and nearby areas and also to generate 400 megawatts of power. It is estimated to cost about Rs 9,000 crore.
Tamil Nadu has opposed the project, claiming that it will impede the free flow of water from the Cauvery into the state.
Earlier on Thursday, the Bengaluru civic authorities cancelled the permission granted to Congress to use the Basavanagudi college grounds for the final event on January 19. The Karnataka government has prohibited rallies and protest marches till January 19 as a part of the restrictions imposed in the state to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The Congress started its 10-day rally on January 9, demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river. On Sunday, some religious leaders and film personalities, including actor Duniya Vijay and music composer Sadhu Kokila, had participated in the march.
The Congress’ decision to call off the rally came after at least three first information reports were filed against its leaders for allegedly violating Covid norms. The rally was also criticised by the Karnataka High Court.
The High Court on Wednesday asked the Karnataka unit of Congress to say by Friday if its members had taken due permission to hold its “Walk for Water” rally amid the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Suraj Govindaraj also asked Congress to tell the court if Covid-19 protocols had been followed during the rally and what steps had been taken in cases the norms were violated.
There has been an uptick in coronavirus cases in Karnataka, particularly in Bengaluru.
On Wednesday, Bengaluru recorded 15,617 new Covid-19 cases – an alarming 44% jump from Tuesday’s count of 10,800 infections. Overall, Karnataka logged 21,390 new cases and reported a positivity rate of 10.96%. Of the 10 deaths in Karnataka in the last 24 hours, six were reported in Bengaluru.
The Karnataka government on Tuesday had decided to extend the coronavirus restrictions till the end of January amid a rise in cases. Schools are also likely to be shut down in all districts where infections are rising.