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Congress Seeks to Downplay Meeting of Its Karnataka Leaders with Independent Candidate Sumalatha

File photo of Sumalatha Ambareesh.

File photo of Sumalatha Ambareesh.

A video of a few Congress leaders at a dinner reportedly hosted by Sumalatha at a private hotel surfaced on Wednesday, giving rise to speculation they worked against the alliance government's candidate from Mandya.

Bengaluru: The Congress on Thursday tried to play down the meeting of some party leaders from Mandya with Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, a video of which has created a flutter amid speculation that they worked against the coalition candidate in Lok Sabha polls.

A video of some Congress leaders, including former ministers N Cheluvarayaswamy and P M Narendraswamy, former legislator HC Balakrishna, Ravi Ganiga and Malavalli Shivanna at a dinner reportedly hosted by Sumalatha at a private hotel on Tuesday, had surfaced on Wednesday.

Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil from JD(S) is the ruling coalition's joint candidate from the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency.

"Let us see later what should be done, because why and for what reason they have met is not known. When they met is also not known," State Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao said.

"There is nothing in the video, they are sitting, that is all, there is nothing big in it...sitting and having food together cannot be a subject for inquiry," he said.

The video gave rise to speculation that the leaders have worked in favour of Sumalatha in Mandya, where it was a bitterly fought contest.

CLP leader and coalition coordination committee chief Siddaramaiah, too, tried to question the presumption about the meeting being seen as supporting Sumalatha.

"I don't know why and for what they have met, for what reason. I will ask them. I will speak to Cheluvarayaswamy and Narendraswamy," he said.

"Just because they met, why presume they have done it (supported Sumalatha)...I don't know, but I have to check with them," Siddaramaiah said.

Pointing out that they had gone for a meeting after elections, deputy chief minister G Parameshwara said, "If they had gone ahead of polls or during polls, we could have said things. As they have gone after the polls, let us not try to give a different meaning to it."

There would not be "any disturbance", he said, as he expressed confidence that the coalition government would be stable and administer the state for the remaining four years.

Congress leaders from Mandya had reportedly stayed away from campaigning for Nikhil, citing Kumaraswamy not seeking their support as one of the reasons.

They had also allegedly expressed their strong opinion against certain statements made by the chief minister on a section of local congress leaders ahead of polls.

Many of them had even extended support to Sumalatha, widow of actor-turned politician MH Ambareesh, through their supporters, who actively participated in her campaigning with Congress flags.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Cheluvarayaswamy clarified that he, along with other Congress leaders, had remained neutral during the polls.

"Party (Congress) had instructed that we should not campaign in support of the independent candidate, so we have not. We remained silent," he said.

Noting that it was a local leader's birthday party where Sumalatha was also invited, Cheluvarayaswamy alleged that police was used to collect the CCTV recording of the event illegally.

Hitting out at Cheluvarayaswamy, JDS MLA Suresh Gowda alleged that he did not stay neutral as being claimed and campaigned for Sumalatha by going to villages.

On the other hand, the BJP, which supported Sumalatha in Mandya by not fielding a candidate against her, expressed confidence about her victory.

"Everyone knows they were all (Cheluvarayaswamy and others) with Sumalatha during the election. As her victory is now 100% guaranteed, they have all got together for a dinner," state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa said.

"Sumalatha's victory is confirmed. Let's wait and see what implications it will have on state politics once the Lok Sabha poll results are out on May 23," he added.

first published:May 02, 2019, 23:03 IST