A move by Karnataka Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar to gift expensive iPhone X cellphones along with leather bags to 37 Karnataka MPs at a meeting in New Delhi to discuss the state’s position on the Cauvery river water issue on January 18 has resulted in a controversy with 18 BJP MPs not accepting the gifts and questioning the move.
The cellphones were given to the MPs along with a leather bag containing papers with respect to the state’s position on the Cauvery dispute on July 16 ahead of the July 18 meeting with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and the Water Resources Ministry but the BJP MPs lead by H N Ananth Kumar returned the iphones calling it a “waste of public money”.
“My secretary sent it back immediately on Monday itself as per my instructions. Wasting public money with such gifts is a sin,” Ananth Kumar, the MP from Bengaluru South, said on Twitter.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar questioned Kumaraswamy over the use of public money to buy expensive gifts for MPs while stating that he was returning his gift.
Kumaraswamy denied any role of the state government in handing out the iPhones. “I do not know about these phones being given as gifts. It is not in the knowledge of the state government,” Kumaraswamy said on Wednesday after the BJP announced plans to return the iPhones. Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar, however, said he had purchased the phones as gifts for the MPs like he had done earlier as Energy Minister when BJP MPs had accepted them without raising an issue.
“The phones are worth Rs 50,000 and I gifted it to the MPs in my personal capacity as a goodwill gesture. It has been viewed in a wrong way. Last year also I had given iPhones to the MPs and many of the BJP MPs called to thank me,” said the minister, who had declared personal wealth of Rs 850 crore ahead of the assembly polls in May.
The practice of providing expensive gifts to MPs invited to meetings is not new and ranged from expensive trolley bags to gadgets in the past. “The handing of gifts has been a customary practice for several years. This time it has become a controversy since the BJP is looking for controversies to attack the government,” a Congress leader said.