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Cash for MLA vote? Ex-PM son justifies

Bangalore, July 6: Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has not denied the authenticity of an audiotape where he is purportedly heard demanding cash for votes in a state upper House election.

Instead, the president of the Janata Dal (Secular) today justified demanding money from legislative council aspirant and party colleague Vijaygouda Patil, while clarifying that no money had eventually changed hands. Kumaraswamy is the son of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Patil, a district-level JD(S) leader from Bijapur in north Karnataka, finally did not contest the June 19 election to seven seats, of which two went to his party, four to the ruling Congress and one to the BJP. Patil has not broken his silence on the tape controversy.

Selling votes is an offence and the Speaker has powers to act. But the legal situation in this instance, where money was sought apparently from one’s own party colleague in lieu of a poll ticket, remained unclear today.

Rival parties condemned the cash demand but did not allege acceptance or threaten legal or constitutional action.

In the 35-minute clip that began playing on local TV channels since last night, a voice purported to be Kumaraswamy’s is heard demanding Rs 40 crore. Amid heavy bargaining, the seeker pleads helplessness.

“I don’t have powers…. It’s the MLAs who vote who have demanded (the money),” he says.

He scales the figure down as purported Patil supporters, one of whom may have recorded the discussion, continue to bargain and tempers start fraying.

“Give 20 crore, I’ll try to convince our MLAs,” the voice presumed to be Kumaraswamy’s says.

The JD(S) chief today defended himself, accusing the BJP of bringing money power into state elections.

“After the BJP came to power, election expenditures have risen dramatically. Every candidate has to spend lots of money,” he said.

Asked if it wasn’t illegal to take money for votes, he said: “No transactions were made.”

Kumaraswamy then alleged that all parties buy and sell votes. “To pass the US nuclear deal, the UPA I did the same thing to get support from MPs of other parties,” he said.

Chief minister P. Siddaramaiah told reporters that Kumaraswamy “cannot defend himself by accusing other parties of wrongdoing”.

“A mistake is a mistake. He has to first accept that,” Siddaramaiah said.

The BJP ripped into its former ally. Kumaraswamy was head of the JD(S)-BJP coalition that lasted from February 2006 till October 2007.

“A probe is needed to uncover the truth and punish the guilty,” said Union minister Ananth Kumar, who has never hidden his dislike for the Gowda scion. “He cannot blame others for such scams.”