The Congress leader, Vinay Kulkarni, and 300 others have been booked by police for violating COVID-19 protocols.

Former Karnataka Minister Vinay Kulkarni
news COVID-19 Sunday, August 22, 2021 - 11:14

Former minister and Congress leader Vinay Kulkarni, who recently secured bail in a murder case, was released from Hindalaga Central Prison in Belagavi on Saturday, and thousands of his supporters gathered at the spot to welcome him, flouting the weekend curfew and physical distancing norms. The Karnataka police have now registered a case against Vinay Kulkarni and 300 others for violating COVID-19 guidelines. 

Belagavi, being a district bordering Maharashtra, is under a weekend curfew as per the Karnataka government rules. However, as soon as Vinay Kulkarni stepped out of prison, thousands of followers cheered him and vied with one another to garland him and offer sweets to Kulkarni, flouting the COVID-19 guidelines. Later, the Congress leader was taken in an open jeep procession from Hindalaga jail to Ganesha temple. Throughout the way, his supporters were cheering and clicking selfies.

Congress MLA Lakshmi Hebbalkar welcomed Kulkarni by putting a tilak on his forehead and tying a Rakhi on his wrist. According to IANS, sources said that she ordered a special gold Rakhi for him.

"Vinay Kulkarni is like my elder brother. I am here as his sister. We share a special bond. I will support him to come out of this problem," she said.

Speaking to the crowd and the media, Kulkarni said, "I was confident of coming out. I have faith in the judiciary. I also have the blessings of religious seers and people of the constituency. I am a different politician. Rich and poor are with me. People have supported me and my family throughout and I am grateful to them."

As many as 3,000 people had gathered at the 'welcome rally,' flouting restrictions of weekend curfew in Belagavi. Despite norms prohibiting gatherings at temples, the Ganesha temple was specially opened for him to perform a puja. He then went to Naganur Rudrakshi Math and sought the blessings of the seer.

Kulkarni is an accused in the murder of BJP Zilla Panchayat member Yogesh Gowda in 2016 and stands accused under charges of conspiracy. He was a Cabinet minister in the previous Siddaramaiah-led Congress government. Kulkarni was arrested in the case in November 2020 after CBI took over the investigation. He spent more than nine months in jail and on August 11 secured bail from the Supreme Court and the People Representatives Special Court in Bengaluru.

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