K'taka bypolls: Cong moves EC over set-top box freebies

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

A Congress delegation submitted a formal complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar

Representative image/Credit: DH File Image

The D K Shivakumar-led Congress on Monday moved the Election Commission with a complaint 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.”

A Congress delegation submitted a formal complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar.

The Rajarajeshwarinagar bypoll has become a high-voltage contest with the Congress having fielded debutant Kusuma Hanumantharayappa to go up against BJP’s Munirathna, who was disqualified last year under the anti-defection law. The JD(S) has fielded local clansman Krishnamurthy V.

Speaking to reporters, Munirathna virtually admitted that set-top boxes were being given to voters. “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.

A recent Congress survey showed that Munirathna was looking to strengthen his “hold” in slum areas through his interests in the cable television business.

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.

Shivakumar also denied the BJP’s charge that he was making attempts to consolidate the Vokkaliga votes in favour of the party’s candidate Kusuma, who belongs to the community that has a sizable number of votes in Rajarajeshwarinagar.

“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 BS Yediyurappa publicly asking Veerashaiva-Lingayats to vote for the BJP during the December 2019 bypolls, Shivakumar said: “Have I made such a speech?”