Bengaluru: The years-old tiff between two former Karnataka chief ministers, H.D. Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah, is playing out publicly again with just a little help from their successor.
The two were brief partners during the year-long Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka that collapsed last month, but have struggled to see eye to eye since their time as party colleagues in the Janata Dal (Secular).
The latest spat between Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah started with a media byte from Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa over the weekend.
Kumaraswamy was left fuming as Yediyurappa claimed that Congress leader Siddaramaiah was among the opposition members who had sought a CBI probe into alleged phone tapping under his government.
Siddaramaiah, a former chief minister himself, has denied the claim, but sources in the Kumaraswamy camp say he is convinced that the Congress leader played a role in the collapse of his government last month.
‘Nearly 300 phone lines tapped’
The phone-tapping controversy hit headlines earlier this month, after an unverified phone conversation between a “power broker” and the present Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao suggested that the latter purportedly lobbied for the post.
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The controversy got a political twist when the rebel legislators who brought down the Kumaraswamy government alleged that their phones were tapped by the then CM too.
“Nearly 300 phone lines were tapped by Kumaraswamy’s government,” said former JD(S) state president A.H. Vishwanath, one of the rebels, to ThePrint.
The MLAs have also alleged that Kumaraswamy tried to “blackmail” them to save his government.
‘Yediyurappa a liar’
Speaking to the media Sunday, Yediyurappa claimed that he had decided to involve the CBI into the phone-tapping allegation probe on the request of opposition leaders, including Siddaramaiah.
On Monday, Siddaramaiah called Yediyurappa a liar, and said the chief minister was using his name for malicious purposes.
“Yediyurappa claims that the move for a CBI probe on the phone-tapping case was based on my suggestion,” Siddaramaiah told reporters in his constituency, Badami.
“I have not said so. It is a blatant lie. I have not spoken to Yediyurappa, nor have I sought a CBI investigation. My suggestion to Yediyurappa is to investigate Operation Kamala, on which the BJP spent crores of rupees. Audio tapes were also released in connection with this,” he added.
Operation Kamala is an alleged BJP conspiracy in Karnataka to engineer defections in the opposition.
In the wake of Yediyurappa’s statement, a visibly upset Kumaraswamy told the media that he was ready for any probe.
“Not just the CBI, let them call (US President) Trump and order an international probe,” Kumarswamy told reporters Sunday. He also demanded that the scope of the probe be extended to the chief ministerial tenures of Yediyurappa and Siddaramaiah.
“Let everything that happened during their tenures come out as well,” he said.
The uneasy coalition government formed by former rivals Congress and the JD(S) in 2018 collapsed in July amid mass defections.
Even while it lasted, the government’s functioning was marred by reports of differences between leaders of the two parties, including Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy.
Siddaramaiah is a former prodigy of JD(S) chief and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Kumaraswamy’s father. However, he was expelled from the party in 2005, amid differences stoked by his opposition to Kumaraswamy’s rise in the party, and work for minorities, backward castes and Dalits — who are believed to constitute the Congress’ voter base.
They got together last year to keep the BJP, which emerged as the biggest player in the assembly election, out of office, but differences persisted.
A public spat earlier this year was triggered by the refusal of some Congress MLAs to acknowledge Kumaraswamy as chief minister, saying that, to them, Siddaramaiah was CM.
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