Bengaluru: The Karnataka Congress landed itself in an embarrassing situation Wednesday after two of its leaders were caught on camera criticising Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar.
In a video, which has now gone viral, KPCC media coordinator M.A. Saleem and former Lok Sabha MP V.S. Ugrappa were caught on camera discussing an alleged corruption scandal right before a press conference was to be addressed. The leaders thought they were whispering to each other, but the conversation was picked up on news channels’ microphones in front of them.
In immediate action taken, the Congress expelled Saleem from the party’s primary membership for the next six years. Urgappa was issued a show cause notice, and the party has given him three days to explain his behaviour.
In the one-and-a-half-minute clip, Saleem is heard telling Ugrappa about a supposed scandal involving Shivakumar and his close aides in the party. “It used to be 6-8% earlier but now it has been hiked to 11-12%. It seems to be DK’s adjustment,” Saleem is heard whispering to Ugrappa.
Saleem can also be heard naming Uppar from Bengaluru, G. Shankar from Udupi and Hanumanthappa from Bellary as being involved. To which Ugrappa corrects him to say Uppar is from Vijayapura.
“This is a huge scandal. If one keeps digging, his name will also pop up,” Saleem further says.
The video also shows Saleem saying that Mulgund, an aide of Shivakumar, made Rs 50-Rs 100 crore in profits. “If Mulgund has made Rs 50-100 crores, you can imagine how much DK (SIC) must have made. He is after all a collection agent,” Saleem is purportedly seen saying.
“You don’t know but all of us adamantly demanded and made him (DK Shivakumar) the KPCC President but he isn’t performing,” Ugrappa says.
Both leaders criticise Shivakumar’s public and media interactions and draw comparisons to Siddaramaiah’s personality.
Neither the party nor the leaders involved have denied or rejected the video.
Conversation taken out of context, Ugrappa says
Speaking to the media shortly after the video went viral, Ugrappa said that a personal conversation was taken out of context.
“Saleem was only giving me inputs about allegations being leveled by BJP and others against D.K. Shivakumar. It was not his personal opinion,” the former Lok Sabha MP told reporters in an attempt to salvage the situation.
He did not, however, withdraw his statement about Shivakumar’s performance as KPCC chief.
“He is our leader and party president. We have high expectations from him. Our anxiety is that he has to work more. We hope Siddaramaiah and D.K. Shivakumar in the next one and half years work day and night to strengthen the party. That is what the conversation was about,” Ugrappa claimed.
Party expels Saleem
Hours after the video put the party in a spot, the disciplinary action committee headed by former Union Minister Rahman Khan rushed into control the damage, with the expulsion and showcause orders being issued.
“It is definitely embarrassing. I will not deny that. The party’s disciplinary action committee will do what it needs to,” Shivakumar told the media.
Terming the allegations made during the conversation as “baseless”, Shivakumar said: “It was a personal conversation but whatever was alleged was baseless. I have not indulged in any corrupt practice. The comments had no connection with either the party or me.”
He pointed to how BJP leaders like former Union Minister Ananth Kumar and former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa too were caught in a similar situation. He was referring to a video clip of the two leaders from February 2017.
BJP leaders, meanwhile, amplified the video clip, criticising Shivakumar.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)