Karnataka 'audiogate': BS Yeddyurappa's opposition to SIT probe at odds with BJP's denial of bribery charges

On Saturday, Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy released an audio clip of BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa and claimed that the former chief minister of the state was trying to lure lawmakers to topple the Congress-JD(S) government.

Kumaraswamy is likely to appoint a retired high court judge to supervise the SIT. "The probe will be conducted under the judge's guidance. The report will also be submitted to the judge who, in turn, will submit it to the House in the next 15 days," a report quoted CMO sources.

The 'audiogate' rocked the Legislative Assembly on Monday with Kumaraswamy announcing a comprehensive special investigation team (SIT) probe into the ‘Operation Kamala’ clip, whereas BJP lodged a strong opposition to the same.

The near five-hour debate, which stalled the day’s proceedings amid three adjournments, saw heated debates as Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar “advised” the coalition government to constitute a SIT to probe the charges, which also involved him. The BJP, however, refused to acknowledge the Speaker’s ruling.

File image of BS Yeddyurappa. PTI

File image of BS Yeddyurappa. PTI

Asserting that the Kumaraswamy government too was accused of horse-trading and that its trustworthiness was under suspicion, the BJP demanded that the Speaker either order a judicial enquiry or a House committee probe into the bribery charges. As the Opposition demanded the scope of the probe to be expanded, BJP MLA JC Madhuswamy asked the Speaker to reconsider his decision. The Speaker, however, justified his ruling, saying he had requested Kumaraswamy to form the SIT based on the fact that his name had been mentioned and a deal had been struck.

This was surprising given that so far the Yeddyurappa-led BJP had vehemently denied taking part in any horse-trading practice and had questioned the veracity of the clip, terming it to be "fake" or "doctored". Accusing Kumaraswamy of blackmailing him, Yeddyurappa on Sunday had said the content and voice in the audio tape are fabricated and doctored.

"I met Sharanagouda, son of JD(S)' Gurmitkal legislator Nanganagouda Kandakur, at Devadurga in Raichur district on 7 February and discussed many things. But the content in the audio tape Kumaraswamy released in Bengaluru on 8 February is fabricated and its voice doctored," Yeddyurappa told reporters at Hubballi.

Quoting Yeddyurappa's statements in Kannada, BJP spokesman S Shantaram told IANS that the opposition leader would reveal all about the controversial audio tape in the state Legislative Assembly. "For your kind information, Kumaraswamy had sent Sharanagouda to the Circuit House at Devadurg to meet me and discuss certain things last Thursday as I was staying there. But the audio tape he released to the media is manipulated. The chief minister is indulging in blackmail politics," Shantaram said quoting Yeddyurappa.

The clip containing a purported conversation between Yeddyurappa, BJP MLA Shivanagouda Naik and Sharanagouda towards an alleged attempt to lure the lawmaker to the other side by offering Rs 25 lakh and a ministerial post for his father. The Speaker’s name too was dragged into the matter, with the charge that he was “booked” for Rs 50 crore to accept the resignations of disgruntled MLAs to topple the government.

Kumar, who raised the matter soon after the session started, said that he was distressed and anguished as a member of the House had cast aspersions on him. He even suggested stepping down against the backdrop of the bribery allegations. However, both government and Opposition members urged him not to be “emotional” and take a “hasty” decision.

Meanwhile, amid the protest in the Assembly, BJP MP Renukacharya flashed CDs that he claimed contained evidence of Kumaraswamy demanding money from a JD(S) leader back in 2014. Submitting the same to the Speaker, he said, “We have evidence of Kumaraswamy demanding money from JD(S) leader Vijugouda for an MLC seat. He had asked for Rs 1 crore to be given to each party MLA,” Renukacharya told reporters later.

BJP Karnataka's official Twitter handle also launched an attack on the Kumaraswamy government and alleged that Yeddyurappa's voice was "mimicked" in the clip. "Full-time movie producer turned part-time chief minister used his connection to mimic BS Yeddyurappa's voice," the tweet read.

Recalling what transpired between him and the MLA's son, Yeddyurappa had said that he would retire from politics if Kumaraswamy proved that he told Sharangouda that Rs 50 crore was given to Kumar for not invoking the anti-defection law if Kandakur joined BJP.  "We have a recording of Kumaraswamy demanding Rs 25 crore from his own party leader to make him an MLC which we will submit to the Speaker.

Yeddyurappa had also called out Kumaraswamy by saying, "Being a chief minister, speaking like this without evidence doesn't look nice. More than 11 MLAs aren't going to attend the budget session, I have been told."

"If it is true, the speaker must answer. If true, I am ready to retire from politics. They're saying this to save their government. That's why they're saying such nonsense," Yeddyurappa had reiterated in another interview.

"Kumaraswamy himself is a film producer. He is an expert in voice recording.... whatever the charge he has made is baseless," Yeddyurappa told PTI.

Shortly after the clip was released, Yeddyurappa said he had not met anyone to woo JD(S) lawmaker Nagana Gouda as alleged and that the charge against him was "far from the truth".

The BJP leader has also claimed that Kumaraswamy had "concocted" the story to hide his failures and inability to keep the JD(S) and Congress flock together. "This is drama," Yeddyurappa had alleged.

The BJP and Yeddyurappa, however, are now reluctant to submit the investigation to the SIT, which, knowing their previous stand, is surprising, if not anything else. There were also reports of the Karnataka government sending the tape for forensic examination.

“Since BJP leaders have raised doubts over its authenticity, we are thinking of sending them for forensic examination to find out the truth,” said Home Minister MB Patil.

“It is a conspiracy to destabilise the elected government in the state. Our party is also seeking legal opinion on the next course of action,” he added.
In fact, in retaliation Kumaraswamy also offered to resign if the tape was found doctored while vouching for its authenticity. Talking to media persons in Dharmasthala, the chief minister said: “I am saying from this temple town that if it is proved that the voice in the audio clip is not that of Yeddyurappa and it is has been doctored or is a mimicry, then he need not resign, I will resign."

Meanwhile, many senior Congress leaders, including Mallikarjuna Kharge demanded a probe and staged protests at several places in the state, including Bengaluru, demanding action against the BJP leader.

"The conversation reveals the conspiracy hatched by Amit Shah, Yeddyurappa to overthrow a democratically elected government. The naked act of anti-constitutional methods being followed by them is exposed. An enquiry at the highest level is a must to expose the true face of BJP," said Dinesh Gundu Rao, president, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, in a tweet.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 17:43:28 IST

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