Sticking to its stand despite surging COVID-19 cases, the Congress in Karnataka on Saturday decided to go ahead with its 'walk for water' march from Mekedatu in Ramanagara district to Bengaluru from Sunday demanding construction of a balancing reservoir across the Cauvery river for drinking water needs of Bengaluru and neighbouring districts.
Notwithstanding the notice served by the Ramanagara district administration asking Congress state president DK Shivakumar not to violate the weekend curfew to contain COVID-19 and allow congregation of people, he said he will go ahead with the party's programme.
"There is no coronavirus anywhere. Go to the Sagar Hospital or the Kanakapura Hospital, there are no cases anywhere. Just show me one case in the ICU. Let's go together and see even a death taken place due to COVID," Mr Shivakumar told reporters in Ramanagara district.
He once again accused the government of inflating the Covid cases for political reasons.
The party has made an elaborate arrangements to conduct its programme.
Former Chief Minister and leader of opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah too reached Ramanagara for the event.
"When there is no stay given to the project by the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court or the Cauvery River Authority, why did they not implement it? They have their government at the Centre. Why didn't they obtain environment clearance?" Siddaramaiah sought to know.
Meanwhile, the state irrigation minister Govind Karjol called on Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai at his residence and had a detailed discussion, sources said.
Later, he told reporters the government has no objection in holding the march as everyone has the right to protest in democracy.
"However, the agitation should take place keeping the situation in mind. Let the Congress leader think how justified it is to hold the event in this time," Karjol said.
According to him, the agitation is nothing but a 'vote bank politics' by the Congress, which is raking up the issue keeping the election in mind. Assembly elections are due in Karnataka next year.
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar flayed the decision of Congress to hold the agitation.
"We are not opposed to your protest. You can hold a march, a marathon run or a horse race. Already you held a bullock cart march, horse carriage, bicycle and tractor. You can go by train, bus, do marathon or trekking. These are good for your health but what I suggest is keep the situation in mind," Sudhakar said.
State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra warned that Congress leaders will face action if they violate the rule.
"Rule is same for everyone. It's not that there are separate rules for Congress, BJP and the JD(S). Police will take action," Jnanendra said.
The Minister advised the Congress leaders to look into the prevailing COVID situation before going ahead with their plan.
The Congress has been demanding the construction of the reservoir to meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru and neighbouring districts.
Neighbouring Tamil Nadu is opposing the project saying that it will hurt the interests of the state, especially farmers.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)