President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday said that Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Muslim ruler of Mysore, “died a historic death” fighting the British, IANS reported. “Tipu Sultan died a historic death fighting the British,” Kovind said while addressing a joint session of the Karnataka Assembly. “He was also a pioneer in the development of Mysore rockets.”

The special Assembly session was held to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Vidhan Soudha, the state legislative building.

The president’s praise of Tipu Sultan follows a stir caused by the Congress-led Karnataka government’s decision to commemorate the ruler’s birth anniversary, despite backlash from the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. On October 14, Minister of State for Skill Development Anantkumar Hegde wrote to officials in the Karnataka government, asking them to leave him out of events celebrating “Tipu Sultan Jayanti”.

On Wednesday, the BJP claimed that Kovind’s speech had been “scripted” by the Congress. “They misused the president’s office,” Karnataka BJP legislator Arvind Limbavali told NDTV. “They invited him and prepared the speech...They wanted to make it [Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary] a big event. They took the opportunity of the president’s visit to mention Tipu Sultan in his speech.”

The Congress said Tipu Sultan deserved to be counted among the great rulers of India. “The president mentioned [Hindu philosopher and poet] Basaveshwara, he mentioned great rulers like Krishna Devaraiah and Rani Kittur Rani Chennamma,” Karnataka Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao said. “In that context, he mentioned Tipu Sultan. It [the speech] puts Tipu Sultan in the right perspective. He is not just a historic figure but a legendary figure.”

President hails former Karnataka chief ministers

Kovind also hailed the contributions of former Karnataka chief ministers including S Nijalingappa, D Devaraj Urs, BD Jatti, Ramakrishna Hegde, SR Bommai, Veerendra Patil and SM Krishna, The Times of India reported. When some MLAs reminded the president that he had forgotten to mention HD Dewe Gowda, Kovind said, “Yes. I do remember Gowda’s contribution. Gowda is not just a former prime minister but also a very old good friend of mine.”

“I have just selected few names. That doesn’t mean that others are not important,” Kovind said when asked about former union minister Veerappa Moily. Kovind called the Vidhan Soudha building “a monument to the history of public service in Karnataka”.