Bengaluru: An audio recording of an alleged conversation between Mr Chetan Gowda, son of Mandya sitting MP, L R Shivaramegowda and former JD(S) leader, P Ramesh where the Dal leader openly talks of the party's alleged plans to spend over Rs 150 crore in the Mandya constituency to ensure the victory of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's son, Nikhil, has gone viral on social media.
Nikhil, making his political debut in the Lok Sabha polls and facing a spirited challenge from Sumalatha, former actress and widow of actor and late minister, M. H. Ambareesh, is the subject of a barrage of criticism from the Gowda loyalist, on the recording. The conversation is reported to have taken place on Friday night as one of the men in the recording, possibly Mr Chetan Gowda, mentions the joint rally of the Congress and JD(S) in Nagamangala taluk that was addressed by JD(S) supremo, H D Deve Gowda and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
The audio CD has set off a furore in political circles as it underlines how high the stakes are in Mandya where Mr Nikhil Kumaraswamy's main challenger, Sumalatha is drawing enormous crowds at her rallies.
On tape, Mr Chetan Gowda repeatedly brings up Sumalatha's unacceptable behaviour, saying "Anna, (brother) you don't know how she talks. Though my father has been in politics for over three decades and served as MLA and MP, she talks as if she has been in politics for 60 years."
The former actress has the backing of the BJP and several local Congress workers, who are upset at their party giving away the constituency to its coalition partner as part of the poll-tie up between them.
The recording also validates claims by the opposition BJP of the huge amounts of cash that are being used to woo voters in the sugar-rich constituency from where the actor Ambareesh hails.
It is the latest tape to create embarrassment for a political party as in February this year, state BJP chief, B S Yeddyurappa, was caught on the wrong foot when an alleged recording of his conversation with Mr Sharanagouda, the son of a JD(S) MLA surfaced.
‘Anna, JD(S) is planning to spend Rs 5L on each booth...’
Excerpts from the present audio CD :
Chetan: Anna, JD(S) is planning to spend Rs 5 lakh on each booth in Mandya for Nikhil's victory.
Ramesh: What, Rs 5 lakh on each booth? I have never heard of so much being spent on a single booth. Ok. How many booths are there in Mandya LS constituency?
Chetan: There are 2,800 booths in the entire constituency. Besides, mutton and chicken for all people on that day. All these years, their family (read H D Deve Gowda) had incoming only (money coming in) and for the first time, we are seeing outgoing (money being spent).
Ramesh: That means, the JD(S) is ready to spend over Rs 150 crore on the Mandya elections. Why does your father (Shivaramegowda) talk ill about Ms Sumalatha Ambareesh, a widow of former minister, late M H Ambareesh, who is contesting as an independent? Is it necessary?
Chetan: Anna, you don't know how she talks. Though my father has been in politics for over three decades and served as MLA and MP, she talks as if she has been in politics for 60 years. I feel someone is training her to speak. My father felt bad when she said he was MP for just three months.
Ramesh: That's OK. (But) why does your father attack her personally using words like 'Mayangane' (mesmerising)?
Chetan: Anna, my dad's political career spans over three decades, but you saw how she spoke about him. He felt it was a big insult. You should have seen how Mr Puttaraju (minor irrigation minister) spoke at the meeting.
Ramesh: I heard the Income Tax Department has opened its centres across the constituency.
Chetan: Yes, they have opened 40 centres in the constituency. Already, contractors have been asked to spend money from their pockets on the elections and recover it later. This government plans to give projects worth Rs 1000 crore to each taluk of Mandya district and these contractors will be given works in their respective taluks. In Bengaluru, Rs 50,000 is given to each booth, but in Mandya it is ten times more. He (Ambareesh) ruined the district for 20 years and Ramya ruined it for six months. You know these film actors are not available on the telephone. Sumalatha will not be seen after April 18.
Ramesh: Your boy, Nikhil, wears a white shirt and a white dhoti every during the campaign.
Chetan: What's wrong with that? His victory is necessary for his father, Kumaraswamy and Deve Gowda and for the survival of the JD(S) in Mandya. He is still 28-29 years old and it could take him another 10 years to mature as a leader.
Ramesh: Where will the JD(S) be?
Chetan: Today, he (Nikhil) is in JD(S) and tomorrow he may join Congress or another party. But as of now he has the backing of eight MLAs.
Ramesh: Take a bet. If the Assembly elections are held next month, all those eight MLAs will be defeated. In the 2018 Assembly elections, people voted for the JD(S) as Deve Gowda had projected Kumaraswamy as CM. People are against dynasty politics. Vokkaligas are unhappy as Tumakuru sitting MP, Muddahanume-gowda was denied a ticket to enable Deve Gowda to contest. Deve Gowda cannot tolerate the growth of another Vokkaliga leader. People are watching everything closely and will give a fitting reply during the election.
Chetan: This is 100 per cent true. But the JD(S) is working out a strategy to win the elections.
Ramesh: Take it from me....people don't like such things.
Chetan: A contractor, who had spent Rs 25 lakh on MLA Suresh Gowda's election was allowed on the dais. In Mandya, there is a contractor for every single kilometer. In the Congress, projects are given to their relatives. But Deve Gowda creates contractors for every one kilometer. Now, the government is releasing a Rs 1000 crore fund for each taluk in Mandya and it will be given to all the JD(S) contractors.
Ramesh: Will the JD(S) government be in power till then? I had predicted on April 14, 2018 that the Congress will not cross 80 seats and was proved right. Siddaramaiah is a very good person, but he is surrounded by bad people. Still, he is the tallest leader in our party. But he lost power just because of one or two wrong decisions.
Chetan: Siddaramaiah lost the 2018 polls for antagonising the Vokkaligas and Lingayats.
Ramesh: Even Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara could not have stopped his victory had he not made some mistakes. People still want him as the CM.
Chetan: This time, JD(S) workers have decided to barricade themselves near polling booths and beat if the independent candidate tries to distribute money.
Ramesh: You said the I-T (department) has opened its centres in the constituency. So how will it be possible to transport the money?
Chetan: Already, contractors have been asked to take out money from their pockets. Besides, if I carry two or three bundles of Rs 2000 denomination, who will come and check? What we are seeing is more than during Siddaramaiah's election. The Mandya victory is a must for Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy or else they will be finished off politically. I know it is not a healthy development in democracy. I may have to face a similar situation in future.
Ramesh: I am against this misuse of power. But I appreciate you as a youth, who wants to strengthen democracy. Tell your father to stop verbally attacking Ms Sumalatha. A friend's wife is like a sister or mother.
Chetan: But she is a threat to society.
Ramesh: Don't talk rubbish. She is very mature and has patience. She is being appreciated across the country for her mature talk.
Chetan: Ok. I will talk to you on April 18.