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The President’s remarks on the former ruler of Mysore came days after Union minister Anantkumar Hegde described Tipu as a mass rapist and brutal killer

President Ram Nath Kovind’s praise for the 18th century Mysore ruler, Tipu Sultan, in his address to the joint session of Karnataka legislature, on Wednesday, triggered a political slug fest between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP.

President Kovind’s acknowledgement of the legendary Mysore ruler as being a freedom fighter who “died a heroic death fighting the British” has riled the Karnataka unit of the BJP which has always tried to paint Tipu Sultan as a barbaric ruler and religious bigot. The comments by the President come days ahead of the state-sponsored celebrations of Tipu Jayanti across Karnataka – initiated by the Siddaramaiah government in 2015 to mark the birth anniversary of the Tiger of Mysore.

Kovind’s comments on Tipu Sultan come days after Union minister for skill development and BJP’s Uttara Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde told the Siddaramaiah government to not include him in the list of invitees for any Tipu Jayanti program. Hegde had then taken to Twitter to publicise his move and dubbed Tipu as a “a brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist.” He had also termed the Tipu Jayanti celebration, scheduled for November 10, as a “shameful event”.

On Wednesday, while addressing a joint session of the Karnataka Vidhans Soudha, the seat of state legislature to commemorate its diamond jubilee, President Kovind  said: “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare. This technology was later adopted by the Europeans.”

As the President made the reference to Tipu Sultan, the Congress members cheered by thumping on their desks.

While the BJP leaders present in the House did not object to the President’s remarks immediately, they slammed the Congress government in the state later in the day, claiming that the ruling party had got the reference to Tipu inserted in Kovind’s speech.

Hitting out at the state government, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council KS Eshwarappa alleged that the government has “misused” the office of the President by getting Tipu’s name mentioned in the speech.

“I condemn it… it is an insult done to people of Karnataka by the state government. If we had raised objections when the President mentioned Tipu, it would have led to violation of protocol…,” Eshwarappa said.

The Congress, however, shot back at the BJP’s allegation with its state working president Dinesh Gundu Rao asserting that the saffron party should be “ashamed” about dragging the President into a controversy.

“By saying that the President has just read out a speech written by somebody, they are insulting the office of the President and the President himself,” Gundu Rao said. The state Congress’s working president also claimed that Kovind’s speech was prepared by the Rashtrapati Bhavan officials after collecting inputs from various sources.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah termed the President’s speech as a “statesman-like address”.

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