HDK announces SIT probe into audio clip row

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar and Leader of the Opposition B S Yeddyurappa strike different postures during the discussion on charges against the Speaker, in the Assembly at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Monday. dh photo

The audiogate scandal rocked the Legislative Assembly on Monday with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy announcing a comprehensive SIT probe into the ‘Operation Kamala’ audio clip he recently released, much to the chagrin of a belligerent BJP, which has voiced strong opposition to the same.

The near five-hour debate, which stalled the day’s proceedings amid three adjournments, saw heated debates soon after an emotionally fraught Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar “advised” the coalition government to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to probe bribery charges against him.

The BJP, which initially trod cautiously, later went on the offensive, refusing to acknowledge the Speaker’s ruling. Asserting that the government, too, was part of the horse-trading charges, and that its trustworthiness was under suspicion, the BJP demanded that the Speaker order either a judicial enquiry or a House committee probe into the charges.

“This is not a direction. I’m advising the chief minister to form a SIT and ascertain the truth on who said it, why it was said and whether it really happened,” Kumar said, adding that the SIT can submit its report in the next 15 days.  

The audio clip containing a purported conversation between BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa, BJP MLA Shivanagouda Naik and JD(S) MLA Naganagouda Kandkur’s (Gurmitkal) son Sharanagouda in his alleged attempt to lure the lawmaker, has raised political temperatures ahead of the crucial parliamentary polls.

The clip gained further primacy as 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 he’d spent the last two nights in distress and anguish as a member of the House had cast aspersions on him. Kumar, who teared up on more than one occasion, suggested that he might consider stepping down against the backdrop of bribery allegations.

However, members cutting across party lines urged him not to be “emotional” and take “hasty” decisions. “Till date, I haven’t conducted myself in a manner that is unbecoming of a parliamentarian. My mother was illiterate. But she was my biggest political and moral teacher. She instilled in me strong moral principles. But today, my integrity is at stake. I can’t carry this blemish forever,” he said, choking up.

While the ruling parties fielded RDPR Minister Krishna Byre Gowda to impress upon the Speaker to expand the scope of the probe, the BJP tactfully protected Yeddyurappa by ensuring he didn’t come under any attack. Party MLA J C Madhuswamy (Chikkanayakanahalli) held the fort, repeatedly imploring the Speaker to reconsider his decision.

Bommai said the clip was released before the presentation of the 2019-20 budget, showing the coalition’s conspiracy.

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.

During the din, BJP’s 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.

The BJP is in no mood to let go of the matter, as Yeddyurappa told reporters that his party would take up the issue once again on Tuesday.

HDK's via media solution

Following BJP's staunch opposition to SIT probe, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is likely to go for a via media solution in a bid to end the impasse in the ongoing Budget session.

According to the CMO, Kumaraswamy is likely to seek Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar's suggestion on appointing 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. The CM will take the Speaker's opinion and arrive at a decision," government sources said.

Opposing the SIT probe, the BJP has demanded a judicial enquiry or a House committee probe.

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HDK announces SIT probe into audio clip row

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