Clips that stir the political potboiler in Karnataka

Karnataka has a long history of audio, video recordings creating a furore but often little else

A video clip of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa allegedly talking of BJP national president Amit Shah’s role in the resignations of 17 MLAs that eventually resulted in the fall of the Congress–JD(S) government, is now before the Supreme Court. While its bearing on the final verdict on the disqualification case remains to be seen, this is only the latest in a series of controversies stemming from surreptitiously recorded audio and video clips involving politicians.

The last few years have seen many such clips muddying political waters at regular intervals in Karnataka and leading to institution of inquiries, resignation of Ministers, and political sledging between the ruling and Opposition parties. It is another matter that such probes have seldom reached a logical conclusion.

The first major audio tape controversy in the State dates back to 1983 with what has become known as “Moily tapes”. Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily was allegedly caught on tape offering money to a legislator to ditch the Janata Party government headed by the late Ramakrishna Hegde. A commission of inquiry, however, gave a clean chit to Mr. Moily later.

Porn clip episode

The most controversial episode in recent times was the 2012 video recording of two BJP Ministers — Laxman Savadi and C.C. Patil — allegedly watching a porn video in the Assembly. This resulted in resignations of three Ministers (including Krishna Palemar who was accused of forwarding the video). It became an important issue in the 2013 Assembly polls, which the BJP lost. A legislature committee which probed the scandal, however, only admonished those concerned and recommended a ban on mobiles in the House. Mr. Savadi is currently Deputy Chief Minister in the BJP government.

In 2014, Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was in the centre of a controversy over an audio CD in which he was allegedly discussing money to be paid to his party MLAs by an aspirant for the MLC seat. December 2016 saw the then Excise Minister H.Y. Meti resigning after a video emerged allegedly showing him in a compromising position with a woman.

Coalition and after

The rather uneasy Congress–JD(S) coalition government’s tenure, which lasted 14 months in 2018–19, also saw the surfacing of controversial clips. Soon after the government’s formation in 2018, a video of the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s “casual-talk” with his party leaders at Dharmasthala on the Kumaraswamy government’s longevity went viral. This caused much heartburn in the alliance. In the video, Mr. Siddaramaiah, at present Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, had reportedly expressed reservations on the government’s survival after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Indeed, the government fell soon after the polls. Interestingly, as the latest video clip of Mr. Yediyurappa is being debated, the BJP is pointing fingers at this recording involving Mr. Siddaramaiah.

Earlier this year, hours before presenting the State Budget for 2019–20, Mr. Kumaraswamy released audio clips allegedly of the then BJP State president Mr. Yediyurappa trying to lure a JD(S) MLA by promising money and position. This expose appeared to slow down the ‘operation lotus’ efforts of the BJP, albeit only for a while. Though Mr. Kumaraswamy ordered a probe by a Special Investigation Team into the audio clips, the findings did not see the light during his tenure. As irony would have it, the present political situation in Karnataka is seeing the two leaders cozying up to each other again.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 6:43:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/clips-that-stir-the-political-potboiler/article29912836.ece

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