BENGALURU: On a day when one leader demanded a CBI probe, another offered to quit politics if proved guilty of offering lucre, and legislators cried foul 24 hours after two television channels telecast sting operations of how they allegedly negotiated for cash in return for their votes ahead of next week’s polls to Rajya Sabha, the question of whodunit and which individual or party won brownie points in this sordid episode plagued all politicians.
On Friday, the last day for withdrawal of nomination papers, five candidates – three of the ruling Congress, and one each of BJP and JD (S) – continued to vie for four vacancies in Rajya Sabha. While BJP seems to be sitting pretty with Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman set to return for another turn, three Congress nominees and one of JD (S) are contesting for three vacancies. Leaders of JD (S), who were banking of second preference votes of BJP MLAs, were cold-shouldered by state president B.S. Yeddyurappa. His disdainful response set off speculation that the BJP and Congress had teamed up to wreck the prospects of Dal’s wealthy candidate M.B. Farookh. A similar stand vis-a-vis the overtures of Dal leaders for an understanding in polls to the Legislative Council added credence to talk of a secret pact between the BJP and Congress.
Going by the floor strength of these three parties in the Legislative Assembly, JD (S), which has 40 MLAs, requires the support of only five other legislators, for Mr Farookh’s entry into Rajya Sabha. On the other hand, former IPS officer K C Ramamurthy of Congress must muster 11 more votes in addition to 34 of his party to pip the Dal contestant. Former Union ministers Oscar Fernandes and Jairam Ramesh would make it without any hiccups as the party has adequate number of legislators to ensure a smooth sail.
Election Commission seeks tapes
Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha said, “We’ve not sent any report nor has the Election Commission asked for a report. The Commission has sought for unedited tapes of the sting operations carried out by TV channels. Those will be viewed and then the Election Commission will decide. The petition filed by JD(S) leaders is vague, so I asked the returning officer to look into it and submit a report. Then we will decide.”
Not part of our culture, says Dr G Parameshwar
Denying any role of the ruling Congress in ‘cash-for-votes’ controversy, KPCC president Dr Parameshwar said: “Quoting a section of MLAs or any candidate over seeking or giving assurance on behalf of the state government does not mean that the Congress is involved. It can be blamed only if anyone from the cabinet makes such promises,” adding “those who are contesting (candidates) may have assured that he will strive to get more funds to those MLAs who support him in Rajya Sabha polls. How could it be considered an illegal or wrongful act?”
He said ‘cash-for-votes’ was not part of the party's culture. “Yes of course, we (Congress leaders including himself) have appealed to independent MLAs as well as all those like-minded MLAs to exercise their franchise in favour of our party's third candidate,” he added....