Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s hesitancy in ordering an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) as advised by Speaker Ramesh Kumar into the ‘Yeddyurappa tapes’ has raised many eyebrows. The ruling coalition appeared to be on the brink of collapse on the eve of the budget session in early February, with speculation rife that some Congress MLAs would defect to the BJP. However, on the day of the budget, Kumaraswamy sprung a surprise when he released an audio clip in which BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa and his team were allegedly offering a Rs 10 crore bribe to the son of a Janata Dal(S) MLA to convince his father to switch parties. Caught on the wrong foot, a stumped BJP was forced to abandon its plans to topple the government, thereby ensuring a smooth sailing for the budget and a new lease of life for Kumaraswamy.
While the attempt to bribe an elected representative constitutes an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, several insinuations have been made against many constitutional authorities in the tape, which need a thorough investigation. The conversation casts aspersions on institutions and individuals, and those mentioned in the clip have every right to get their names cleared, lest they remain under a cloud forever. One of the most disturbing claims made is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah have managed Supreme Court and High Court judges, besides Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala. Another serious charge is that a deal was struck with the Speaker, who was supposedly paid Rs 50 crore, to help the BJP pull down the JD(S)-Congress government.
Over a month has passed since the 15-day deadline set by the Speaker for completion of inquiry ended, but the chief minister has now gone on record that he was in “no hurry to seek vengeance” and that he would not misuse his powers to target political opponents. This gives rise to suspicion that Kumaraswamy is soft-peddling the issue to keep Yeddyurappa in good humour, should he require the BJP’s support to remain in power in the future. The chief minister’s dilly-dallying could also raise doubts about the very authenticity of the clip and expose him to charges of fabricating the audio to save his government. This is not a private issue where the chief minister can bestow largesse on his opponents, but a criminal offence that cannot be swept under the carpet. The needle of suspicion will start to point towards Kumaraswamy if he does not immediately set up the SIT, not only to save his own credibility but also to bring out the truth.