File photo: Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.(PTI)
File photo: Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.(PTI)

‘Political murder’: Kumaraswamy decries death of Karnataka legislative council deputy chairman

The former CM said Dharmegowda was very hurt by the way he was treated by some members during the recent council proceedings.
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru | By Venkatesh Babu | Edited by Sparshita Saxena
UPDATED ON DEC 30, 2020 12:09 AM IST

JDS leader and former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy condoled the passing away of Karnataka legislative council deputy chairman SL Dharmegowda on Tuesday and called it a “political murder”.

He said, “He was more than a brother to me. He was very hurt by the way he was treated by some members during the recent council proceedings and felt humiliated. It is not suicide but a political murder.”

Kumaraswamy was referring to a recent one day sitting of the council where the BJP and the JDS joined hands to try and remove legislative council chairman Prathapchandra Shetty who belongs to Congress by bringing in a no-confidence motion. Dharmegowda tried to preside over the proceedings but was manhandled by some Congress members with Shetty later rejecting the motion citing procedural lapses.

Dharmegowda’s body was recovered from a railway track at Gunasagar village of Kadur Taluk in Chikmagalur district in the early hours of Tuesday, state police said.

65-year-old Gowda is believed to have died by suicide. The police are examining an alleged death note found near his body. According to police sources, Gowda had asked his official gunman and escort to leave him alone on Monday evening. He had left his home in Shakarayapatna in an old personal Santro car with his driver and came to Gunasagar at around 6 pm. He then asked his driver Dharmaraj to leave him alone and wait at a distance as he had to meet someone.

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His last call is said to have been to a friend named Hemant and he is said to have made enquiries about train timings. When Gowda did not return home even late at night, worried family members are said to have alerted authorities who mounted a search. By then, his cellphone was turned off but based on his last cell signals, they searched and located his body on the Mankenahalli railway track.

The police sent the body for autopsy to McGann Hospital in Shivamogga and he was later buried at the Madagadakere farmhouse that the family owns in Shakaryapatna. The JD(S) MLC is said to have been distressed over the way he was treated by some members during recent chaos in the council when he was manhandled.

Chief minister BS Yediyurappa, leader of opposition in assembly Siddaramiah, KPCC president DK Shivakumar and former PM Deve Gowda were among other leaders who expressed shock and condoled the death of Dharmegowda.

Leader of opposition in assembly Siddaramiah rejected Kumaraswamy’s charges and said, ‘he was a personal friend to me. His father Lakshmaiah who was a legislator was well known to me and the entire family was close to me. One has to look who forced him to sit (in the council chairman’s chair)”.

CM Yediyurappa too condoled the death and flew to Kadur to play his last respects. “The entire state is shocked by the demise. I pray to God to give his family strength to face this,” he said.

Former PM Deve Gowda broke down while talking about Dharmegowda and said, “It is shocking to learn the news of deputy speaker of state legislative council and JDS leader SL Dharmegowda’s suicide. He was a calm and decent man. This is a loss of the state.”

Revenue minister R Ashoka too blamed the opposition’s behaviour towards Dharmegowda for his extreme step. “I have been told that he has mentioned this incident of what happened in the Council recently in the note that has been recovered. We will know once the full investigation is complete.”

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A close associate of JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy, Gowda hailed from an influential political family. His father SR Lakshmaiah was a three-time MLA from Birur assembly constituency and Gowda himself had once been elected from there in 2004. Gowda’s brother SL Bhojegowda is also an MLC.

Speaking to HT Bhojegowda said, “There were no personal or financial reasons for him to take this extreme step. He was upset about what had happened (in the council). I and other party leaders had told him not to take things to heart as these are common in politics, but he seemed to have taken it very seriously.” Police have not released the content of the alleged death note. A case has been registered in Ariskere police station and senior police officials said that further investigations are on.

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