Karnataka minister KS Eshwarappa said on Wednesday that the saffron flag could replace the national flag at some point in the future, PTI reported.

He, however, added that the tricolour is the national flag now and everyone should respect it. The minister said that anyone who does not respect the national flag is a traitor.

Eshwarappa, who is the state minister for rural development and panchayat raj, said that the saffron flag may become the national flag in a hundred, two hundred or five hundred years, Deccan Herald reported.

He added that people would earlier laugh at Bharatiya Janata Party leaders about the promises made to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya. “Haven’t we achieved it today?” he asked.

The minister hinted that the saffron flag may be hoisted at the Red Fort, without completing his sentence. “We will hoist the saffron flag everywhere,” he said, according to Deccan Herald. “Today or tomorrow, India will become a Hindu nation. Even at Red Fort...”

Eshwarappa also responded to Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar’s claim that students at Shivamogga replaced the tricolour with the saffron flag during a protest by students against the wearing of hijabs inside educational institutes on Tuesday.

The minister called Shivakumar’s claim a lie and accused him of creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims, according to PTI.

“Yes, the saffron flag was hoisted there, but the national flag was not lowered,” he said. “Saffron flag can be hoisted anywhere, but not by lowering the national flag, it has not happened and will never happen.”

Eshwarappa said that the ban on hijabs applied only to educational institutes that insist on uniforms, and that people can wear whatever they want elsewhere.

He also responded to allegations that BJP leaders were handing out saffron scarves to students, saying that he was free to distribute them if he wanted and did not need to take Shivakumar’s permission for it.

Over the past few days, Hindu students at several places in Karnataka have protested against women wearing hijabs to college. The protests prompted the government to close all high schools and colleges in the state for three days from February 9. The police have put a two-week ban on protests near educational institutions.

The Karnataka High Court is currently hearing the matter. On Wednesday, it referred the case to a larger bench.