Karnataka Bypoll: Congress moves EC over set-top box freebies to voters 

Congress has submitted a formal complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar

Congress leader D K Shivakumar. Credit: PTI Photo

The D K Shivakumar-led Congress on Monday moved the Election Commission with a complaint alleging that BJP’s Rajarajeshwarinagar candidate Munirathna distributed set-top boxes to voters ahead of the November 3 bypoll. 

“One candidate has his photo on set-top boxes being distributed in the name of his company. If the Election Commission is alive and if they want to protect the law, they must take action. The candidate himself has admitted that he’s doing it,” Shivakumar, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president, told reporters. 

Shivakumar said Munirathna should be booked under IPC Section 171 (A-D) and under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act. The returning officer should take immediate action, he demanded. A Congress delegation submitted a formal complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar. 

Speaking to reporters, Munirathna virtually admitted that set-top boxes were being given. “That’s my profession,” he said. “(Shivakumar) also runs a cable network. He’s a businessman too. We’re both doing our business. Whatever complaint is filed against me holds good for (him) also,” he added. 

In his election affidavit, Munirathna, a film producer, has declared his links with Munirathna Telecommunications Pvt Ltd, Rockline Telecommunications Pvt Ltd among other firms in the television/entertainment industry. 

In its complaint, the Congress accused Munirathna of broadcasting TV channels owned by him - Munirathna Cinema and Munirathna Telugu - and “the said broadcast is through set-top box provided by him...” Apparently, each set-top box costs Rs 1,000 and “Munirathna himself has distributed more than 50,000 set-top boxes.”

Shivakumar also denied the BJP’s charge that he was trying to consolidate the Vokkaliga votes. 

“What caste? Why are they so fearful? The Congress itself is our caste. Where have I indulged in caste politics? Some community leaders would’ve held meetings,” he said. Citing the example of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa publicly asking Veerashaiva-Lingayats to vote for the BJP during the December 2019 bypolls, Shivakumar said: “Have I made such a speech?”