President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday hailed Tipu Sultan, saying he died a heroic death fighting the British, remarks that came in the backdrop of protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka against the glorification of the 18th century Mysore ruler.
The remarks by the President in his address to the joint session of Karnataka legislature amid the raging debate on Tipu Sultan’s legacy sparked a war of words between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP.
The saffron party has opposed the Congress government's plans for 'Tipu Jayanti' celebrations on his birth anniversary on November 10.
The BJP alleged that the state government has 'misused' the office of the President by getting Tipu's name mentioned in the speech while the Congress said the opposition party should be 'ashamed' for levelling this charge.
The celebrations have been opposed tooth and nail by the BJP which sees Tipu Sultan as a 'religious bigot' and a 'brutal killer'.
"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," Kovind said while noting that Karnataka is a land of formidable soldiers.
The President's reference to Tipu Sultan came after he noted the contributions of various historical figures of Karnataka, including Krishnadevaraya who was the emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1509 to 1529.
As the President made the reference about Tipu Sultan in his speech to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Vidhana Soudha, the seat of state legislature, Congress members cheered by thumping of the desks.
'Congratulations to Hon. President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind for a statesman like address to the Karnataka legislature. @rashtrapatibhvn (sic),' Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tweeted on his personal twitter handle @siddaramaiah.
Siddaramaiah later said that the speech delivered by the President was his own and accused the BJP of trying to give it a 'political colour'.
He questioned 'how can a President read state's speech? Is it a joint session address?'
Tipu was a ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore, who was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort of Srirangapatna against the British forces.
Opposition BJP and some outfits are opposed to Tipu Jayanti celebrations and have called him 'religious bigot', 'fanatic' and 'anti-Kannada'.
Tipu Sultan is also viewed in a negative light in Kodagu district where he is alleged to have persecuted the local Kodava population, as also the Roman Catholics of Mangaluru, on religious grounds and forced conversion to Islam.
Hitting out at the state government, Opposition BJP Leader in the Legislative Council K S Eshwarappa alleged that 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 President mentioned Tipu, it would have lead to violation of protocol...," he added.
Reacting to the allegations, state Congress Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao said BJP should be 'ashamed'.
He said 'by trying to say that president has just read out a speech written by somebody, they are insulting the office of the President and the President'.
Suggesting that the speech was prepared by the President's office after collecting inputs from various sources, Rao said, "...such allegations shows the state of mind the BJP leaders are in."
Recently, Union minister Anantkumar Hegde kicked up a row after he requested the Karnataka government not to include his name in programme invitations for Tipu Jayanti celebrations.
'(I have) conveyed (to) Karnataka government not to invite me to shameful event of glorifying a person known as brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist,' Hegde had said in a tweet.
The Congress government is all set to celebrate 'Tipu Jayanti' despite widespread protests and violence that had marred celebrations in the last two years.