Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar on Friday justified laying the foundation stone for installing a mega statue of Jesus Christ in his Assembly constituency of Kanakapura, NDTV reported. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have accused him of indulging in “appeasement politics” and attempts to please Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi.

“People had told me they wanted a statue of Jesus Christ in Harobele as there was no statue of Christ in the area,” the MLA said, adding that he had told the locals not to construct any statue unless the land belonged to them. “I had promised that I will help and I have done my job. It is not for politics or power. One has to do some things for self-satisfaction in life.”

The proposed 101-foot statue atop a 13-foot pedestal will be constructed at Kapalibetta in Harobele village, a predominantly Christian locality in Kanakapura. Shivakumar spent his own money to buy a 10-acre government plot for the trust that is building what will be the world’s tallest monolithic statue of Jesus, his office said, according to PTI.

Shivakumar said he is from a rural constituency where people gave him love and strength. “In my constituency, I have built hundreds of temples,” he added. “More than 30 acres of property in three locations have been given to government education institutions. I have also bought properties and donated them to various organisations.”

Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa took a dig at Shivakumar by saying that those opposing the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya were laying the foundation for the statue of Jesus. “Even Siddaramaiah [Congress leader] cannot stop him [Shivakumar] from becoming KPCC [Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee] president now,” he added.

Former Union minister Anantkumar Hegde also ridiculed Shivakumar. “Here is the Tihar returned great man who, for the sake of a position, is seeking to please the Italian woman by setting up a huge Jesus statue, thus displaying his gallantry,” the BJP leader said in a tweet. “It won’t be a surprise if more slaves within the Congress compete with each other to do appeasement politics. The Italian woman gives importance to only those who have converted to Christianity.”

Another Karnataka BJP MP Pratap Simha questioned the motive behind the construction of the statue, whether it was part of a plot to convert the Vokkaligas of Kanakapura.

Meanwhile, Revenue Minister R Ashoka alleged that the land for construction of the statue was not owned by the Congress leader. “It is not Shivakumar’s property...it is government gomala land [pasture land],” he told PTI. “I don’t know in what sense he [Shivakumar] has said he has purchased and given it...no one can donate it to anyone. I have sought a report from the district deputy commissioner of Ramanagara.”

Shivakumar had said that the land been sanctioned by the erstwhile HD Kumaraswamy government, and he had paid for the land. He said the criticism directed against him was out of ‘’jealousy’’ towards his secular outlook.