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Karnataka: Cong-BJP fight erupts over suspended tender for Dalits to watch devotees' shoes at temple

Bengaluru: A fight has erupted between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Opposition Congress in Karnataka over a tender called by the Muzrai department for watching the shoes of visiting devotees at Basavanagudi Dodda Ganapathi Temple in Basavanagudi. While the tender process has since been suspended, it has touched off a political slugfest.

aking the attack to the BJP, the Congress on Thursday claimed that the tender mandates that the job of watching the shoes of the visiting devotees be reserved for Dalits.

Amid accusations by the Congress on Thursday that the ruling party was practising untouchability, the BJP hit back accusing the erstwhile Siddaramaiah government of calling similar tenders. While all other tenders for Muzrai temples are for general category, the one for shoe keeping is reserved for the Dalits, said party MLA Priyank Kharge, who also happens to be the son of veteran Dalit leader and the Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge. Putting out a tweet, the MLA claimed the government was practising untouchability by reserving the job of watching the devotees' slippers for Dalits.

Responding to this allegation, the BJP's Karnataka unit said the proposal was thoroughly reviewed and the order passed. They claimed the Congress was in power when a notification on the order was issued. Siddaramaiah was the chief minister at the time, the saffron camp alleged.
While the BJP said the government rolled back the order, it questioned why Priyank Kharge was silent when the order confining Dalits to wait for shoes at the temple was issued when the Congress was in power.

State Muzrai minister Sasikala Jolle, however, conceded that the tender should not have been announced in the manner it was. The order was published in 2016. Officials said such a system of watching devotees' shoes was in place earlier.

A notice will soon be issued to the tender calling officer," the minister said, adding that action will be taken to avoid any recurrence of the controversy.
What is the controversy?

There is a convention calling for members of the Dalit community to participate in the tender called by the management board of the Dodda (big) Ganapati temple. In the tender that was invited to watch shoes of the devotees, it was mentioned that only those belonging to scheduled categories should participate. However, tenders for the sale of puja items, right to pick cattle and the sale of fresh water are reserved for the general category.

The tender was withdrawn in the face of fierce criticism. The management board of the temple has made an announcement that the tendering process had been suspended. The Muzrai department's tehsildar has now shot off a notice to the management board asking them to explain why they called the tender in this way. (ANI)

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