By Bhavana Akella & Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru, Feb 17 (IANS) A purported audio tape in Kannada has put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka in the dock. Its contents expose their desperation to topple the JD-S-Congress coalition government in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, due in April-May.
Defying the adage “once bitten, twice shy” Yeddyurappa not only got too ambitious only to get caught on the wrong foot but has also pushed the party into trouble by trying to lure a senior JD-S legislator to join the BJP.
Trying to fish in the troubled waters of the Congress, which is witnessing power struggle between state leadership and a dozen of legislators, including four rebels, the BJP made a desperate bid to dislodge the government to grab power or ensure a spell of President’s Rule during the general elections.
According to a police complaint and a counter-complaint by the JD-S and the BJP, Yeddyurappa tried to “bribe” JD-S member Naganagouda Kandakur of Gurmitkal through the latter’s son Sharanagouda at Devadurga on February 7.
Voices of BJP’s two other legislators, Shivanagouda Naik from Devadurga and Preetham Gowda from Hassan, are also apparent in the tape offering “crores” to Sharanagouda to get his father Kandakur resign and contest from the same seat (Gurmitkal) on a BJP ticket in a by-election.
With Sharanagouda recording the conversation between him and the BJP trio and playing it to the media the next day (February 8) here in the presence of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, the BJP and Yeddyurappa tried to wriggle out of the situation by first boycotting the 2019-20 budget presentation on February 8 and disrupting the 10-day session.
Going on offence to defend itself, the BJP protested against the state government’s decision to inquire into the audio tape through a special investigation team (SIT) and sought a judicial or a House committee probe.
The state government rejected the BJP demand for a judicial probe into the veracity of the 80-minute audio tape and got the budget for fiscal 2019-20 passed in the Assembly by voice vote on Thursday amid the din caused by the opposition.
Though Yeddyurappa initially denied that the voice in the tape was his and accused the JD-S of producing a fabricated and distorted version, a damaging reference to Assembly speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar by Naik that he could be bribed Rs 50 crore for not disqualifying Kandakur in the event of defection to the BJP embarrassed him (the Speaker).
An attack on Preetham Gowda’s house at Hassan, about 180 km from Bengaluru, on Wednesday, allegedly by JD-S workers in retaliation to the former’s remarks against JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, as recorded in the audio tape, also led to the 104-member BJP group to disrupt the Assembly proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House ahead of the last day of the budget session on Friday.
However, the BJP continues to make a brave face. “The audio tape will have no bearing on our prospects in the Lok Sabha elections as the probe into it is by the police and not judiciary. Depending on outcome, we will challenge it in a court,” BJP’s state unit spokesman Vamanacharya told IANS here.
Even as the Congress heaved a sigh of relief with dissident and rebel legislators attending the Assembly on Wednesday and voting on the budget, the JD-S has been mocking the BJP for failing to topple the eight-month-old coalition government.
“The state government will not succeed in its bid to embarrass our party as courts will need presentable evidence, appearance of witnesses, which will only drag the case on. The audio tape will die its own death,” said Vamanacharya.
Reiterating the demand for a judicial probe into the audio tape, the BJP leader said it was only the judiciary that has the right to give out the report on the issue as the police will be under pressure from the state government in the inquiry.
It’s not the end of the story. Be ready to expect more such revelations and political cacophony as the Lok Sabha elections near.