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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

SIT to probe controversial Karnataka audio clip

Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy said the matter was not limited either to parties or individuals as the whole country was watching what was happening in the state.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2019 23:59 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy speaks in House during the first day of the Budget Session of Assembly, at Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru on February 6.
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy speaks in House during the first day of the Budget Session of Assembly, at Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru on February 6.(AP Photo)
         

Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy on Monday said he is willing to launch a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into an audio clip that allegedly contains bribery charges against assembly speaker K R Ramesh Kumar. The controversial audio clip, released by Kumaraswamy on Friday, that purportedly recorded a conversation between Bharatiya Janata Party’s state president Yeddyurappa and Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Nagangouda Kandkur’s son Sharanagouda. In the clip it had been alleged that MLAs could resign without any fear because speaker Ramesh Kumar had been paid Rs 50 crore.

Kumar raised the issue in the assembly after it convened on Monday because aspersions were cast on him and questions were raised about his impartiality. For over two hours, legislators from the Congress-JD(S) alliance and opposition BJP argued about the limitation of privilege of the House. And though BJP MLAs initially asked the speaker to ignore the matter because the alleged conversation had occurred outside the House, Ramesh Kumar chose to continue with the discussion, saying that it appeared that the comments were made by an MLA.

“To my misfortune, a person named me and said if anybody is willing to resign I will accept their resignation because I have taken Rs 50 crore,” Kumar said. “They have said courts will be fixed and the PM has also been named. This is not a good development.”

Kumar said the matter was not limited either to parties or individuals as the whole country was watching what was happening in the state. Rural development minister Krishna Byregowda intervened to say that the matter did not pertain to the speaker as an individual and disrespect to the post was also disrespect to the House. “Reflections on the character of the speaker in discharge of his duty are a breach of privilege and contempt of the House,” he said. However, BJP legislator J C Madhuswamy said he was worried that the speaker was taking the comments personally. “What Byregowda has spoken about, contempt applies to comments made in the House. We will never tolerate any disrespect to the chair. But I don’t understand how this can be brought up” he said. Arguing that a judicial probe would take a long time, Kumar suggested a probe by a special investigation team that would submit its report in 15 days. “Considering the incidents that have come to light, since your name has been dragged into this, I am more than willing to order a probe by a SIT to not just protect the respect of the chair but to also put an end to the low opinion the public seems to have about lawmakers,” the chief minister said. Throughout the proceedings, Yeddyurappa did not intervene, except on a minor point. The former CM had accepted on Sunday that it was true that he had met Sharanagouda and that they had held discussions. Political analyst A Narayana said divisions within the BJP were becoming apparent. “One small faction headed by Yeddyurappa has lost the trust of the other larger faction, which has been uneasy with the alleged attempts at poaching MLAs,” he said.

First Published: Feb 11, 2019 23:58 IST