A day after sting operations conducted by two TV channels showed its MLAs purportedly demanding money for supporting a candidate in Rajya Sabha elections, the Janata Dal (Secular) Friday said the legislators were aware that a sting was on and were only amusing themselves.
President of the party’s Karnataka unit H D Kumaraswamy said: “JD(S) MLAs were aware that a sting operation was on. What they told persons who approached them was, in my opinion, an effort to amuse themselves. They were just making buffoons of those who approached them, there was no transaction of money.’’
The party also hit out at the media, saying the sting was part of a systematic effort to undermine a regional party.
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“Nobody can question my integrity. My MLAs were discussing some things but did they actually take money? It is an effort to undermine JDS which is a small regional party compared to Congress and BJP,’’ JDS national president H D Deve Gowda said.
TV channels Times Now and India Today Thursday broadcast separate sting operations where JD(S), Congress and Independent MLAs were caught on camera discussing the various considerations of MLAs while casting votes in Rajya Sabha polls, which is scheduled for June 11.
“Some national channels have targeted JD(S) in particular. Why did they come from Delhi and do a sting only in Karnataka?” Kumaraswamy said.
He added that the sting operation showed decline in the ethical standards of the media. “Stings are unethical. Earlier, as leaders we used to discuss many things off the record. These days they send cameras. They claim things are off record, but record everything with spy cameras Is this ethical?” Kumaraswamy said.
“Let all those talking on channels like that guy Arnab Goswami come and contest an election. It is easy to sit and criticise but the ground realities are different. If we speak the truth, we become villains,’’ he said.
JDS legislator G T Deve Gowda, who was seen in the sting, said he would file for defamation since he had not demanded any bribe. Karnataka Janata Party legislator B R Patil, also seen in the sting, echoed Gowda and demanded a CBI enquiry into the sting operation.
Two wealthy candidates from JDS and Congress are locked in a battle to win one of the four Rajya Sabha seats to which elections are to be held.
B M Farook of JD(S), a businessman who has declared wealth to the tune of Rs 687.15 crore, and K C Ramamurthy of Congress, a retired policeman who runs an education business and has declared wealth of Rs 77.27 crore, are contesting for the seat that was won in 2010 by businessman Vijay Mallya with the support of JDS and BJP.
According to general assumption, the ruling Congress, which has 33 spare votes for the fourth seat and needs the support of 12 more MLAs, will attract votes of nine Independents and five dissidents from the JDS along with a few members of parties like the Karnataka Makkal Paksha and Sarvodaya Paksha to see its candidates through.
The Congress is wooing Independents and other MLAs with the promise of development funds in the constituencies, among other things.
The JD(S), on the other hand, is learnt to be banking on the attraction of the wealth of its candidate B M Farookh to keep its flock of 40 MLAs intact while, at the same time, attracting votes from at least five Independents and others to see the businessman through.
Meanwhile, JDS spokesperson Ramesh Babu said the party has filed a petition before Election Commission, demanding postponement of the election after CM Siddaramaiah assured Independent legislators of grants of Rs100 crore for their constituencies.
EC seeks report
The Election Commission of India Friday sought a report from the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Karnataka on the sting operation that purportedly shows MLAs demanding money in exchange for their votes in the upcoming elections to four Rajya Sabha from the state. “The ECI has received queries from various media persons regarding alleged sting operations by some channels related to Rajya Sabha elections in Karnataka. In this regard, the Commission has asked CEO Karnataka to provide a report on the facts of the matter,” the ECI said in a press statement.