Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has found himself in the middle of a controversy over a purported video clip that shows the Janata Dal (Secular) leader telling someone over the phone to “shoot mercilessly” the killers of a party colleague.
Kumaraswamy, who seems unaware that television cameras were recording the purported conversation — apparently with a police officer — issued a clarification on Tuesday.
That was not an order to shoot anyone, he told reporters after paying his respects to the slain leader.
The clarification followed after the Opposition BJP seized on the chief minister’s purported order in the clip that has gone viral.
Alliance partner Congress declined to comment.
The chief minister’s purported instruction on the telephone came during a visit to Bijapur on Monday evening.
The clip shows Kumaraswamy describing Honnalagere Prakash, the slain JDS leader from Maddur in Mandya district, as a “good person”.
It was what he apparently said next that has triggered the controversy.
“I don’t know who killed him and who killed him in this manner. Shoot them (the killers) mercilessly. There will be no issues,” a person resembling Kumaraswamy is heard saying on the purported video clip.
Prakash, a local JDS leader, was on Monday travelling in his car on the highway in Maddur when four bike-borne assailants chased and stopped the vehicle.
Police sources said the men yanked open the car door, hacked Prakash on his neck and arms with machetes and fled, leaving the 50-year-old unconscious in the car. Prakash died soon after being rushed to a hospital.
Kumaraswamy, who was in Maddur on Tuesday to pay his respects to Prakash, said he had only asked the police to take strict action against the killers and ensure that they didn’t get away. “That was not an order (to kill),” he said.
“It was traumatic when I was told about the incident when I was at Bijapur helipad yesterday. In that traumatic situation I did say something to the authorities,” he said.
“It is beyond my imagination that such a person can ever be killed,” he told reporters.
“Our system is such that murder accused get bail citing liberty. That is very painful.”
The BJP slammed Kumaraswamy. “It’s wrong to issue such orders,” party leader Jagadish Shettar said, adding the chief minister had no business asking police to shoot anyone.
State BJP chief B.S. Yeddyurappa said it was an “irresponsible” statement. “If he speaks like this, what will happen to the law and order situation?”
The Congress, which shares power with the JDS in the state, refused to be drawn into the controversy. “The chief minister will comment about it,” state unit chief Dinesh Gundu Rao said.
This is not the first time that emotion appears to have got the better of Kumaraswamy. Within just three months of taking office as the head of the JDS-Congress coalition, Kumaraswamy had told a party rally in Mandya he might not live for long.
“I may not live for very long,” the teary-eyed leader had said, possibly because of health-related problems.
Kumaraswamy had to replace a metal heart valve, placed in 2007, with a more advanced one last year.