Cash-for-defection: Gowda’s deja vu moment in 36 years

Srinivas Gowda

In the winter of 1983, K Srinivasa Gowda, a small-time politician from Kolar, made headlines when he along with his mentor C Byre Gowda ‘exposed’ what was said to be the first ever case of ‘cash-for-defection’ in Karnataka politics.

Thirty-six years later, on Friday, the very Srinivasa Gowda of the infamous ‘Moily tape’ controversy, now a senior MLA, was in the news for the same reason. The JD(S) MLA reiterated in Legislative Assembly that BJP leaders Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, S R Vishawanth (both MLAs) and former minister C P Yogeeshwar, had offered him Rs 5 crore to resign as JD(S) MLA and defect to the saffron party.

Whatever may be the fallout of the serious charge made by Srinivasa Gowda, the fact remains that luring of MLAs to shift political loyalties has become an integral part of Karnataka politics over the years.

In what is said to be the first case of ‘bribing’ an MLA to defect (in 1983), C Byre Gowda, Independent MLA from Vemgal in Kolar district, had claimed that the then Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly M Veerappa Moily had offered him Rs 2 lakh to join the Congress (I) to bring down the minority Ramakrishna Hegde government, which was supported from outside by the BJP and the Left parties.

In November 1983, two years before the anti-defection law was introduced to put an end to “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” politics, Byre Gowda and his close political aide Srinivasa Gowda had released an audio cassette purportedly containing conversation between the MLA and Moily on the alleged offer.

According to the contemporary media reports and other documents relating to the infamous Moily tape scam, Byre Gowda and Srinivasa Gowda met Moily at Cubbon Park in Bengaluru and boarded his car. On reaching Sadashivanagar, Moily allegedly went to the residence of a Congress (I) leader, said to be the then treasurer of the party, and returned to the vehicle in a few minutes.

Subsequently, they proceeded towards Munireddypalya and Moily allegedly gave a briefcase containing Rs 2 lakh cash to Byre Gowda, who is the father of the present Rural
Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda.

Subsequently, Byre Gowda had released certain tapes to the media and claimed that what the tapes contained was the conversation that took place between him and Moily while they were travelling by the car
Later, a judicial enquiry was ordered into the episode by the Ramakrishna Hegde government. The Justice R G Desai Commission exonerated Moily of the charges on the ground that the authenticity of the tapes could not be established and there were inconsistencies in Byre Gowda’s statements.

In the absence of any support from his party, Moily fought his own battle and came clear of the grave allegations that had cast a shadow over his political future. On the other hand, Byre Gowda joined the Janata Party and was made chairman of the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board and later a minister.
 

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