As widely known by now, Janata Dal (Secular) leader and ex-chief minister H D Kumaraswamy (HDK) shocked everyone with his frank admission of asking money for electing a person as Member of Legislative Council (MLC). After a CD of what appeared to be a conversation between a MLC-post aspirant Viju Gowda Patil and HD Kumaraswamy surfaced in the media, HDK admitted that he indeed had demanded money, and this is how politics is run in the state.
What is more interesting is that HDK admitted this as “truth” even in the on-going state assembly session, in the floor of the house. The fallouts of this are unknown at this juncture, while it is true that what HDK said will go on records of the assembly and will be saved for posterity.
Probably this is for the first time in the history, that a people’s representative is admitting directly to personal involvement in corruption in the system in the floor of the house. However, his admission isn’t a surprise to those who know his personality well. He is known to put himself into controversies, yetcome out unharmed.
There are numerous other dynamics to this episode. It is no secret that the JD(S) top leadership is struggling to hold the forte in the state. Rumours say that many JD(S) leaders are ready to shift loyalties to other parties like Congress or BJP. It is said that this was expressed by many JD(S) leaders in the JD(S) introspection meeting conducted in Sri Lanka in June 2014.
Citizen Matters has not been able to independently confirm some of the rumours making their way around the state’s political sphere, since this episode. But a little elaboration of the context of the rumours is helpful to citizens trying to understand both the matter and man at the centre of it.
This meeting itself was rumoured to be sponsored by Kupendra Reddy, a real estate businessman based in Bangalore who was earlier in the Congress party. Kupendra Reddy got elected as a Rajya Sabha member with support from JD(S) and Congress, on June 12, 2014.
It is rumoured that some JD(S) leaders were hand-in-glove with BJP leaders in this CD episode. The man who came to talk to HDK, Viju Gowda Patil himself is rumoured to have spent hours in a BJP leader’s house in Hubli a day before the CD surfaced.
Brutally honest politician?
Whoever plotted this CD episode very well knew what Kumaraswamy is capable of, and probably his weaknesses too. In fact this is not for the first time that HD Kumaraswamy is being open about corruption in politics. In an interview with Citizen Matters last year during Karnataka’s assembly elections, HDK opined that people too have accepted corruption as way of life.
“People are fed up with all the parties. They are not going to take any serious decision about corruption. They want their day-to-day problems to be solved by the government. They will support the party who takes this seriously,” he said, adding that he supports his father HD Devegowda’s then-famous statement “Corruption is not an issue in elections.”
However that the people of the state didn’t re-elect the BJP government which was by then famous for several scams is a different story.
It is also not for the first time that HDK has landed into controversy on bribe-related issues. There was the infamous mining bribe scam during the tenure of HDK as the chief minister of the state. Mining baron from Bellary Janardan Reddy allegedly gave rupees 150 crore as bribe to HDK. Reddy even filed a petition against HD Kumaraswamy in the Supreme Court in 2006, requesting for a CBI probe, which he withdrew later in 2010, so the allegation has remained unproven. The case was on Karnataka Lokayukta’s table, which did not yield any results, however Reddy had to go behind bars for his own irregularities in mining and probe by Enforcement Directorate.
Controversy all along
HDK has also been in controversy due to his affection and marriage to Radhika, a Mangalore-based cinema actress. The couple has a girl child. Both the families have accepted the bigamy silently, though according to the Constitution the second marriage is invalid unless the person divorces the first wife. Radhika has been quite vocal about her relationship with Kumaraswamy. she has even released their photos to media, while Kumaraswamy has maintained silence. However, a PIL fled in the High Court on the bigamy issue was dismissed for the “lack of proof.”
Kumaraswamy, a film producer by profession before becoming a politician, has funded many films in Radhika’s name. In January 2014, a journalist Nagalakshmi Bai wrote to the Election Commission mentioning that Kumaraswamy did not declare the assets in Radhika’s name, even when he had openly admitted to their relationship. There are no media reports that reflect the status of this complaint. Kumaraswamy has managed to successfully put the rumours and gossips to rest, in this case.
Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita Kumaraswamy owns Kasturi Media Private Limited, which launched a TV channel, Kasturi TV, that initially offered general entertainment and news. Later in 2012 Kasturi Media Private Limited launched News-24, a channel dedicated to news.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar dragged into controversy
What makes this also noteworthy is that Kumaraswamy has dragged the name of Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar into the controversy. Chandrasekhar who is an entrepreneur-investor and politician, runs Jupiter Capital, a financial services and investment company, which owns and controls Suvarna News 24×7, a Kannada news channel. Jupiter Capital also has stakes in Kannadaprabha, a Kannada newspaper originally started by The Indian Express Group. Suvarna News 24×7 was the first news channel to break the HDK CD audio and news.
Chandrasekhar has vociferously supported pro-citizen and anti-corruption governance reforms in the country and Karnataka, and in Bangalore in particular. He led former BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s ABIDE task force for the city.
In his questions on Public TV aimed towards Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Kumaraswamy asked Rajeev Chandrasekhar to come out openly to debate the cash-for-vote issue. In the meantime, there has been total silence from Chandrasekhar on the issue. It is not clear whether HDK’s intentions were genuine or whether he was lashing out at Chandrasekhar for airing the news.
Chandrasekhar originally became a Rajya Sabha member (first term, 2006-2012) with the support of JDS and BJP MLAs from the state. If the gossips on the power corridor are to be believed, lot of money changed hands then, though there is no proof.
HDK pointing fingers at Chandrasekhar is nothing new. Sources say that when volunteers of India Against Corruption movement had approached HDK way back in 2012, HDK had expressed his apprehension on the movement, pointing to the fact that Chandrasekhar led the movement in Bangalore.
In this backdrop, it is interesting to see where this debate will lead to.
Meanwhile, Central Home Department has asked for a full report on the MLC vote scam issue from the State Government. So now the issue is not between the State and H D Kumaraswamy – It has reached the Centre and has the potential to have far-reaching political consequences.
Not the first time I’ve been atttacked by a politician: Rajeev Chandrasekhar
To ascertain his views on money and corruption in politics, just before the April 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Citizen Matters requested for an interview with Rajeev Chandrasekhar. The questions included one on his own election into Rajya Sabha. However, Chandrasekhar’s travel plans scuttled the interview. However Rajeev Chandrasekhar replied to another email last week sent by Citizen Matters. in which he clarified his stand on his name being dragged into controversy by Janata Dal (secular) leader H D Kumaraswamy.
Here is the response by Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
What do you feel about H D Kumaraswamy dragging your name into controversy? Why do you think he did that – what political mileage would he gain by targeting you?
Why Kumaraswamy does or says what he does is for him to explain! [sic]
As for me it is not for the first time that I have been atttacked by a politician caught in an alleged act of corruption; and it certainly won’t be the last! I have had the dubious record of being subjected to attacks by a range of luminaries including Sukhram, Pramod Mahajan, A Raja, Janardhan Reddy, Kapil Sibal and now this fine gentleman!
In this particular case, it seems to have been triggered by the gutsy reporting of a news channell in which I have a financial interest.
The newschannel has uncovered stories of corruption earlier that caused similar attacks from other Karnataka politicianss as well. I assure you that I remain clear and determined in my mind about what is right and wrong and what my obligations are as a MP and an investor in media.
What does it take to win Rajyasabha elections? You have gotten support from BJP and JD(S) MLAs for Raya Sabha seat in the past. Do MLAs vote on their own, or is there a quid-pro-quo at play? Did you have to donate to party funds etc? or pay the voters?
RS nominations are just like Lok Sabha tickets! It depends on the party’s decision – usually based on reputation, caste, political equity of the candidate. Only difference here is that the electorate are the MLAs and so it’s an indirect election.
Kumaraswamy in his assembly speech was very emotional and asked for a debate on politics and corruption. Vinay Kumar Sorake recently admitted that corruption causes all problems in public administration. All politicians admit that there is corruption in politics. What is your take on corruption in politics?
It is my view that emotion or drama does not change what is right or wrong in politics. Corruption, especially power of big money in politics is the biggest threat to good governance. I’ve said this many times before even in context of Bangalore. If officers and politicians have to pay money for their posts, then they will seek to recover it from government or contracts or deals – which causes this vicious circle of corruption and scams.
What does it take to cleanse the system? Do you think it will happen any time soon?
It won’t cleanse until media and people decide they want to cleanse it and do what’s necessary to ensure that. If we can’t fight and stave off vested interests, then be prepared to live with them. Simple equation!
Article updated on July 14th, 2014, upon receiving responses from Rajeev Chandrasekhar, to our newly-sent questions.