Budget day in Karnataka arrived amidst a flurry of action, with the BJP vowing to continue protests against the “unpopular coalition government”. However, the drama began much earlier than that.
Calling an emergency press conference at his residence on Friday morning, 8 February, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy claimed that there were concerted efforts being made by the BJP to poach MLAs, as recently as the night of 7 February.
Rs 50 crore to ‘book’ the Speaker of the House Ramesh Kumar, an offer of Rs 25 crore and a ministerial berth to switch camps and join the BJP. These are the kind of offers, Kumaraswamy alleged were being made to his party men. Indicating that Operation Kamala was still very much in progress, Kumaraswamy brought out multiple audio clips that purportedly contained proof of his claims.
Kumaraswamy Names Modi, Shah as Coordinators
He claimed that senior leaders like Modi and Amit Shah were themselves guiding the poaching efforts being orchestrated by BJP members in the state. Calling out Modi for his hypocrisy at attempting to run a democracy, he said that there was proof in the audio tapes that Shah himself had “managed” the Supreme Court.
“I demand the PM, come out with your real face to this country. Who has encouraged your leaders to topple the Karnataka government?” he raged.
Pulling up young Sharan Gouda, son of the JD(S) MLA from Gurmitkal, Nagangouda Kandakur, Kumaraswamy became emotional as he thanked the honesty and sincerity of his party-workers. Kumaraswamy claimed that Gouda had turned down a plum offer to leave for Mumbai and join other disgruntled MLAs in switching sides to the BJP, who would then be rewarded for their efforts.
"“I got information at 1.30AM. I appreciate my party workers who are sincere, and credit to them for my party surviving. My worker called me at night. I thought BS Yeddyurappa went to Devadurga to pay respects to an elderly man who passed away. But I was wrong.”" - HD Kumaraswamy'We Will Make You a Minister, You Have Nothing to Worry About’
Recounting his own version of events, that have allegedly been recording on his phone, Sharan Gouda said that he had been asked to go to Devadurga from Yadgir on Thursday night around 11 pm, where a meeting took place at a circuit house. He was told that Yeddyurappa was interested in speaking to him.
"“Hassan MLA Pritam Gowda and Devadurga MLA were there. They made me sit down and said 11 people were ready to jump ships. [He said] ‘Your father is aged now. We will give you money. You go to Mumbai and meet Vijayendra. You can contest elections and we will make you a minister’. He said we have “booked” the speaker for Rs 50 crore. When I asked him about the Supreme Court, he said Amit Shah has “booked” them." - Sharan GoudaWhat do the Audio Clips Purportedly Say?
In the audio clip that has been released, the voice that is purportedly said to be of Yeddyurappa can be heard repeatedly reassuring Sharan Gouda.
“This is a good opportunity. Don’t worry about anything, I will take care of you like a son. Leave everything to me, just get ready to leave. I never deceive those to whom I have given my word,” the voice can be heard saying.
Revealing details of the BJP’s grand plan, the voice further claims that it was “99% sure” that by Friday evening, 14 MLAs would be on their side. He also said that he was offering each of the MLAs in Mumbai Rs 10 crore, a ministerial berth while others would be offered a chairman position on various boards. All the while urging Sharan to fly to Mumbai at the earliest, the voice that is supposed to be Yeddyurappa, also claimed that there would be strength in numbers.
He also repeatedly names Dr Sudhakar, the Congress MLA from Chikkaballapur as having gone to Mumbai only on Thursday morning.
“There is no future in JD(S). Once BJP comes to power, there will be nothing. You can shine if you join BJP,” Sharan is told.
‘Kumaraswamy, a Film Producer, Can Manipulate Voices’: Yeddyurappa
Fervently defending himself at a retaliatory press conference soon after, Yeddyurappa said that he would quit politics and resign as an MLA, if the tapes turned out to be real.
“These are doctored and completely fake,” he said. He moved on quite quickly to state with confidence that at least 10-11 Congress MLAs would abstain from the meeting. He also said that BJP MLAs would not interfere with the Budget session and would allow it to pass peacefully.
However, that assurance soon came to naught as he and his fellow MLAs stormed the well of the House for the third day in a row, demanding a clear explanation behind the allegations made in the morning press meet.
Yeddyurappa later used the lack of clarity as an excuse to walk out.
“When the Speaker’s name got involved in such an argument, we asked the Speaker to clarify this point, but he hurriedly started the Budget. So, we walked out. When he (Kumaraswamy) makes such statements, he should justify it. If proven to be true, I will resign from politics.”
Whether or not the allegations of poaching and the ever-looming ghost of Operation Kamala will ever stop haunting the Karnataka Assembly will remain to be seen. For now, all eyes will be on the finance bill or Budget presented by the CM and whether or not it will be defeated when it comes up for adoption.
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