With Congress' Bellary chalo march in protest against the BJP government's "failure" to check illegal mining entering the fifth day, three Karnataka ministers on Thursday launched a counter rally challenging the Opposition to prove its charge.
Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy, his brother and Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy and Health Minister B Sreeramulu set out on their rally from Chellagurki village to drum up public support for a mega rally they had planned to stage in Bellary on August 20.
The ministers dared Congress to prove its charge against them.
"I would hang myself, if Congress prove its allegation that I am involved in illegal mining," Janardhana Reddy declared.
Sreeramulu, who on Wednesday had tonsured his head, attired in black colour robes, went barefoot, offered prayers at the "Yerri Thatha" temple and addressed the rally along with Reddy brothers at which he hit out Congress for trying to 'defame' Bellary district.
"I would quit my ministerial berth if the allegations are proved," Sreeramulu said.
Opposition leader Siddaramiah rejected the charge and said Congress had done nothing that would bring insult to people of Bellary.
"Bellary is not a fiefdom of the Reddys. It is part of Karnataka and India. Any citizen is free to travel anywhere in the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Congress has done nothing that would bring insult to Bellary people. They are also our brothers and sisters," Siddaramaiah, heading the padayatra, told reporters at Kora in Tumkur district.
"We do not require any protection for the padayatra. People themselves are giving us the protection," he said, referring to Reddy's statement that the government had provided protection to the Congress padayatra.
KPCC president R V Deshpande chided Sreeramulu for tonsuring his head and described him as "political novice".
Karnataka unit BJP president K S Eswarappa said he found nothing wrong in Bellary ministers organising rallies in their district, which he termed as "preparatory" exercise for the August 20 show.