BENGALURU: Not the Governor’s address, and not the budget presentation, but it was ultimately a controversial audio tape that led to the smooth functioning of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. Monday witnessed civilised debates between the ruling and the opposition parties with interjections from Speaker Ramesh Kumar for the larger part of the day over tapes that purportedly show BJP’s attempts to topple the coalition government before ruckus broke out.
While the Ramesh Kumar evoked the tapes and its content pertaining to the Speaker’s position on the floor of the House, Congress and BJP debated over the intent, context, breach of privilege with respect to the tapes. While Rural Development Minister Krishna Byre Gowda insisted that the insult meted out to the position of the Speaker by a member of the House should be considered breach of privilege, the BJP vehemently opposed it.
“Rama asked his wife Sita to endure a trial by fire after a random person cast aspersion because his wife had to be above suspicion,” he said, but soon withdrew the comment after the BJP mocked him. “Since BJP feels it has proprietorship over Ramayana, I give the example of Caesar’s wife. The Speaker’s position, much like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion,” he said.
An emotional Ramesh Kumar recalled his conversations with his late mother to draw inferences for his integrity — a point backed by Congress Legislative Party chief Siddaramaiah. “We do not have an ounce of suspicion on Ramesh Kumar, but the doubts formed in the minds of people must go and hence an inquiry is inevitable,” Siddaramaiah said.
BJP’s Madhu Swamy apologised to the Speaker, but insisted that the tapes did not merit the kind of importance they were receiving and did not amount to a breach of privilege since it happened outside the House. The entire House agreed on the need for a probe and clear the Speaker’s position of any taint, but while the BJP agreed only to a probe by a House committee or a judicial commission into contents of the tape that deal only with the Speaker, the JD(S)-Congress coalition insisted that the entire tape along with all related attempts to topple the government be probed.
“We will form an unbiased SIT that will hold a detailed probe into the matter so the truths emerge,” said Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. The government’s move to probe all contents of the tape met with protests from the BJP.
“It was Chief Minister Kumaraswamy who conspired, sent people at midnight, got everything recorded, released it on budget day and claimed that Ramesh Kumar had been bought by some people in a press conference. He committed the crime of insulting Ramesh Kumar,” said BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa, who sat through the proceedings with a poker face.
The second half of the session too was a victim of the protests by BJP leaders who refused to accept the SIT probe. The BJP intends to prolong its protest against the SIT until the Speaker orders an alternative probe.