Audio tapes, bribery charges spice up Karnataka politics
Hours before presenting the state budget, Karnataka chief minister released an audio tape that, he said, contained a purported conversation between state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa and a Janata Dal (Secular) leader’s son.
Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to destabilise the state government by bribing lawmakers of his Janata Dal (Secular), triggering a sharp rebuttal from the opposition party that called the allegations “fake and concocted”.
Hours before presenting the state budget, Kumaraswamy released an audio tape that, he said, contained a purported conversation between state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa and a Janata Dal (Secular) leader’s son who was allegedly offered money and other benefits to influence his father.
The Congress, an ally of Kumaraswamy, said it would ask assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar to take action against four of its MLAs, who are said to have gone “missing” and did not turn up in the budget session that began on February 6 despite instructions by the party. Their disappearance has been seen as part of efforts by the opposition to topple the Cong-JD(S) coalition.
At his press conference, Kumaraswamy alleged that there were two audio clips of recorded telephone conversations between Yeddyurappa and Sharangouda Kandkur, son of JD(S) lawmaker Nagangouda Kandkur who was offered money by BJP.
Kumaraswamy also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, saying the opposition’s campaign, termed “Operation Lotus”, was being carried out with their permission. “Without the knowledge of the prime minister, is it possible to do all this?,” he asked.
Sharan Gouda, who was present with the chief minister, alleged that Yeddyurappa tried to reach out to him over phone and asked him to meet him at Devadurga. In the clip of the purported conversation, , a man’s voice is heard offering money and a ministerial berth, besides assuring Sharan Gouda about “taking care” of the speaker and judges in case the anti-defection law was invoked and it went to court.
Yeddyurappa said the audio was fake. “I have not met anyone,” he said, adding that Kumaraswamy was unable to manage the coalition and the government had lost the trust of the people.
Yeddyurappa also denied Kumaraswamy’s charge that he had spoken about a “₹50 crore offer to book” the assembly speaker. “If I had spoken like this (about the speaker), if it is proved, I will resign as an MLA and quit politics,” he said.
In the elections in held in May 2018, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, but was stunned by the JD(S) and the Congress that formed a post-poll alliance and the government. In the 225-member state assembly, the Congress has 80 MLAs, including the speaker, and the JD(S) has 37.
On Friday, the Congress appeared to have taken a tough stand on Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, Mahesh Kumathali and B Nagendra, who have said they will not be able to attend the 10-day budget session and also skipped a legislature party meeting. Their prolonged absence appears to have emboldened the BJP and sparked fresh speculations over the future of the ruling alliance.
On January 18, the four lawmakers did not turn up at a key party meeting, after which the remaining 76 legislators were moved to a resort. The meeting was convened by the party to assess whether its flock was intact amid speculation that some of the leaders had switched over to the BJP.