Bengaluru: Days after a senior leader from the Janata Dal (Secular) aired his frustration against HD Kumaraswamy, another lawmaker from the party criticised the former Karnataka Chief Minister.
SR Srinivas, JDS legislator from Gubbi constituency, was once known as a staunch follower of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy. But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Srinivas said there would be nothing wrong in sending Kumaraswamy to jail if he had ordered illegal telephone interception during his tenure as chief minister.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa last month had recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into allegations that the phones of several Opposition leaders, ruling party leaders, their relatives and public servants were illegally monitored when the Kumaraswamy-led Congress regime was in power. The scandal had gained political steam ever since disqualified JD(S) MLA AH Vishwanath dropped the political bomb, accusing the Kumarswamy government of tapping phones and spying on more than 300 people, including him.
Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, M Mallikarjuna Kharge and home minister in the alliance government MB Patil, had sought a probe, while several BJP leaders had directly accused Kumaraswamy of being behind the episode to save his government, which was then rocked by dissidence within.
Srinivas’s comments, following those by senior JDS leader GT Deve Gowda, point to a mounting rebellion in the party after the state witnessed political upheaval a few months ago when several JDS-Congress rebels quit their parties and brought down the alliance government.
A former minister, GT Deve Gowda had defeated former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from the Chamundeshwari constituency. However, GT Deve Gowda has lately maintained a distance from the party members and has not attended any of the legislators’ or party meeting.
When questioned, GT Deve Gowda shot down any speculation of him crossing over to the BJP. “At present, I don’t have any plan to join the BJP. But I am upset with my party leaders and I have expressed this many times. It doesn’t mean that I am joining the BJP,” he said, adding a note of caution, “But in politics, anything can happen at any time.”
GT Deve Gowda once again took pot shots at Kumaraswamy on Thursday, expressing his unhappiness at the way Kumaraswamy and MLA Sa Ra Mahesh had treated him. “That is the reason why I am away from the party,” he explained.
The JDS leader has earlier expressed displeasure over Kumaraswamy’s closeness to former tourism minister Mahesh.
Following GT Deve Gowda’s rebellious move, Srinivas also joined in to level charges against the JDS top brass. “If HD Kumaraswamy was involved in phone tapping or involved in earning money through corruption, let him get arrested. There is nothing wrong in that,” Srinivas said.
“Is there a rule not to arrest Kumaraswamy?” he asked. “According to my information, telephone conversations were illegally intercepted during his tenure. My phone was also one among those that were tapped. Kumaraswamy might have suspected me too. Whoever has committed a mistake has to be punished mercilessly.”
Asked whether it was done at the behest of Kumaraswamy, Srinivas said he was not aware of it.
"I don't know whether Kumarawamy or officials were behind it. I had information phones were getting tapped. As soon as I got to know, I changed my number," he added.
Srinivas also hit out at Kumaraswamy for not attending the protest rally organised here on Wednesday by several Vokkaliga outfits against the arrest of senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar.
“If JDS leaders are truly concerned about DK Shivakumar’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), why have not they met him in Delhi? The whole Vokkaliga community joined hands and protested against Shivakumar’s arrest. Why did the Gowda family members not attend?” he asked. “If they are truly concerned about Shivakumar, they would have come to the protest. We are deeply concerned; hence, we took part in rally.”
"We had gone there as a leader of the community was in trouble and the community was protesting against it. Probably he (Kumaraswamy) didn't have that feeling and so he didn't come. It is not something for which an invitation has to be extended. It is the community's work. Did we give an invitation to about 25,000 people who came for the protest yesterday?" he asked, saying "personal ego" should be set aside on the community issue.
Srinivas was referring to the protests held by Vokkaliga community in Bengaluru on Wednesday against the arrest of Shivakumar on money-laundering charges.
Kumaraswamy on Wednesday had cited not getting an invite as the reason for his absence from the protest rally.
Kumaraswamy, who also hails from the community, was conspicuous by his absence at the protest that was largely seen as a show of strength of the community, dominant in old Mysuru or southern Karnataka region.
While Kumaraswamy is likely to face heat from the CBI in the alleged illegal phone interception case and the multi-crore IMA Ponzi scam, members of the Gowda family are also being openly criticised by party leaders.
AH Vishwanath, K Gopalaiah and KC Narayanan Gowda were the three JDS lawmakers who had quit the party, leading to the collapse of the coalition government in the state. Karnataka’s only existing regional party now has 34 lawmakers in the state Assembly; the outfit is likely to lose a few more if the rebellion in the ranks is not doused at the earliest.
Political observers say that the JDS will experience testing times ahead, with Kumaraswamy likely to end up in trouble in the alleged phone tapping case. With no eminent second-line leader left, it would then be left to the 86-year-old HD Deve Gowda to shoulder the entire weight of the party once again.