Bengaluru: The BJP was left embarrassed and fuming as its Karnataka MLA Shrimanth Patil claimed he was offered money to switch from the Congress in 2019, when the Congress-Janata Dal Secular (JDS) coalition collapsed, making way for the BJP to come to power.
With his statement reigniting the ‘Operation Kamal’ controversy — the BJP’s alleged ploy to buy defectors from the Congress and other opposition parties — Patil retracted his statement, calling it a “mistake” and clarifying that he neither was offered any money nor did he take any to switch from the Congress to BJP.
Patil was among the 17 MLAs who quit the JDS-Congress coalition, which led to the collapse of the government and the BJP coming to power under B.S. Yediyurappa.
Patil was included in Yediyurappa’s cabinet, but was dropped after Basavaraj Bommai took over chief ministership in July this year.
On Saturday, Patil claimed he was offered money to switch to the BJP, adding heft to the ‘Operation Kamal’ allegations the Congress threw up at the time.
“I joined the BJP without taking any money. They (BJP) asked me how much money I want but I didn’t take a single penny. Instead, I asked them to give me a good position once the government was formed so I can serve people well,” Patil first told the media in Belagavi Saturday.
He was responding to a question on why he was not allowed to continue as a minister in the Basavaraj Bommai cabinet.
“I don’t know why I was not given a position this time but party leaders have assured me that I will be accommodated in the next cabinet expansion. They have promised to give me a cabinet berth.”
Following this, the Congress lashed out at the BJP, demanding an investigation by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Taking to Twitter, state party chief D.K. Shivakumar said: “Sri Shrimant Patil has spoken the truth. The BJP had indeed attempted to lure Sri Shrimant Patil, a former minister using Operation Kamala. I congratulate him for speaking up on this matter. The ACB must immediately investigate this and take action against those who subvert.”
Sri Shrimant Patil has spoken the truth. The BJP had indeed attempted to lure Sri Shrimant Patil, a former minister using Operation Kamala. I congratulate him for speaking up on this matter. The ACB must immediately investigate this and take action against those who subvert. pic.twitter.com/sxXJuHDJVL
— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) September 12, 2021
By Sunday, Patil said his earlier remark was a “mistake” as the opposition leaders targeted BJP over the matter.
“They (BJP) didn’t offer me any money. Media asked me about my entry into BJP. They (BJP) asked me what I wanted and I told them that I only wanted a good position. Yesterday’s statement was a mistake. I went to them by myself and said I would join them. They did not approach me,” Patil said in Belgavi Sunday.
Before his induction into the BJP in 2019, Patil was a Congress legislator. He was being hosted at a resort by the Congress that July, which had moved its legislators there to prevent any poaching attempts. The Congress as well as the JDS had moved its MLAs to resorts at a time when H.D. Kumaraswamy, chief minister at the time, had agreed to a trust vote.
Patil was taken away by his son from the resort. Following his “disappearance”, the Congress had alleged, in the Karnataka assembly, that the MLA has been abducted by the BJP.
On 18 July 2019, days after Patil went missing from the resort, his son released videos claiming his father was unwell and was in a hospital in Maharashtra.
Then, on 28 July, Speaker N. Ramesh Kumar disqualified Patil along with 14 others under the anti-defection law. Later in November 2019, Patil along with 15 others, joined the BJP.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)