The Congress in Karnataka on Wednesday found itself in a tight spot after a video showed a purported conversation between the party media coordinator M A Saleem and former Lok Sabha member V S Ugrappa attributing the Congress State president D K Shivakumar to an alleged scam when he was a Minister.
Taking strong exception to the clipping that went viral, Shivakumar said he cannot deny that the conversation did not take place and rejected the content of the conversation. Acting swiftly, the party suspended Saleem from the party for six years and served a show-cause notice to Ugrappa, who is Congress spokesperson, seeking an explanation in three days.
The conversation is said to be related to the scams in the Irrigation Department when Shivakumar was the Irrigation Minister in the coalition government of Congress- JD(S), which ran for 14 months and collapsed in June 2019. The video gave the BJP cause to hit out at the Congress and Shivakumar with a spokesperson of the saffron party alleging that former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was behind the drama.
However, Ugrappa clarified that Saleem was only briefing him what the BJP leaders have been talking about the raids carried out by the Income Tax (I-T) Department since October 7 against three major contractors executing irrigation and highway project on their 47 premises in four States, including Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The search and seizure by the I-T officials have resulted in the detection of undisclosed income of about Rs 750 crore, the I-T Department said in a statement on Tuesday.
Minutes before the press conference by Ugrappa on Tuesday, Saleem sat next to him and started whispering about the scams. Incidentally, the conversation was recorded.
In the purported video, Saleem is heard saying, "Earlier, it was eight per cent. He increased it to 12 per cent. These are all adjustments by DKS."
"Uppar and G Shankar, the one from Hospet in Ballari, whom you know. Uppar is from Bengaluru," Saleem was seen explaining.
When Ugrappa corrected him that Uppar is from Vijayapura, Saleem said Uppar's house is right opposite to former Chief Minister S M Krishna's in Bengaluru.
"It's (Irrigation) a big scandal. If dug properly, his (D K Shivakumar) role will also come out. You don't know, sir, the three (contractors) made Rs 50-100 crore. If they had made so much (of wealth), then guess how much he (Shivakumar) would have made. He is a collection 'giraaki' (extortionist)," Saleem is heard saying.
In reply, Ugrappa said he did not know those things.
"I don't know this. We all lobbied to make him (Shivakumar) State president. That's why I am not saying anything. These are the reasons...," Ugrappa is heard saying.
Further, Saleem said Shivakumar stammers these days.
"He stammers these days, maybe because of low BP or something else," Saleem said to which Ugrappa agreed.
Saleem also wondered whether Shivakumar drinks as he gets emotional these days.
He then hailed Siddaramaiah for his strong body language.
Shivakumar said the conversation between Saleem and Ugrappa, which media has shown, has actually taken place.
"You have shown that they have spoken ill against me. I will not deny it. They have spoken against me," Shivakumar said in a press conference.
He further said he has no connection with the content of the conversation.
"I am unrelated to what they have spoken. I was never part of any 'percentage' (share in contracts) and I don't need it. I have no connection with it (share in contracts)," Shivakumar said.
Shivakumara also tweeted,
I cannot be expected to respond to the hallucinations, loose talks and gossip of some people. My life is an open book. I don't think there is anything more to explain.— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) October 13, 2021
Clarifying, Ugrappa held a press conference today and said Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah are like the two eyes of the party in Karnataka and both were dear to him.
Ugrappa said Saleem was briefing him about what the BJP leaders were talking outside following raids. However, the place chosen by him was wrong and he could have spoken in private and not before the media, he said.
The developments come well ahead of the crucial bypolls to Sindagi and Hanagal Assembly segments on October 30.
Also, it has come at a time when the party has geared up for the Assembly elections, which is one-and-a-half years away.
The party had also seen in the past the show of strength between the factions of Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah. Ugrappa and Saleem are considered as Siddaramaiah's close aides.
The video gave the BJP ammunition to target Congress and Shivakumar.
"Shivakumar had made a baseless charge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah following raids by the income tax and enforcement directorate, but today his own party members are speaking against him, inside his own party office right behind the party banner," BJP State spokesperson Tejaswini Gowda said in a press conference.
Another BJP spokesperson Chalavadi N Swamy, who accompanied Gowda, alleged that Siddaramaiah was behind the alleged drama as he was speaking through Ugrappa.
(With PTI Inputs)