Eight Members of the Karnataka Legislative Council – six from Congress and two from JD (S) – are in the dock. These “elders” are accused of fraudulently getting their names entered in the electoral list of Bengaluru with an “ulterior motive” of voting in the elections to the post of Mayor of Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike even though they hail from different districts of the state. The murky episode does not end here. In fact, this is the beginning of a sordid saga of fraud and flagrant violation of constitutional norms.
After having got their names entered in the electoral list of Bengaluru, these MLCs have claimed TA/DA from Karnataka Legislative Council by mentioning their addresses belonging to their native districts. “Vote here; Eat there” is what these conscience keepers of the state have done. “If they are residents and voters in Bengaluru, how can they claim TA/DA from as far as place like Bagalkot by showing it as their native place. This is nothing but fraud,” says Padmanabha Reddy, Leader of the Opposition in Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.
Reddy, a senior member of the BBMP, and the whistle-blower of this sordid episode has been fighting doggedly to expose the fraud.
This “omnipresent saga” of these MLCs commenced when they wanted to vote in the elections to the Mayor of BBMP and various standing committees. Article 243 R of the Constitution of India read with Section 7 (1) (D) of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act of 1976 enables MPs, MLAs and MLCs – residing in Bengaluru and registered as voters in the electoral rolls – to exercise their franchise in the BBMP mayoral polls.
The ruling Congress had failed to get majority in the 198-ward BBMP, the elections to which was held in 2016. BJP had won 100 seats and hence was the clear winner. However, the ruling party is accused of misusing the law to further its prospects in the mayoral elections. Citing Article 243 R of the statute, the Congress and JDS managed six and two of their MLCs to register themselves as voters in Bengaluru city, so that they can vote in the local bodies elections.
“The ulterior motive was to ensure the victory of Congress candidate for the post of Mayor. Both Congress and JD (S) joined hands to keep the BJP out. When they still ran short of votes, both the parties got their MLCs name entered into electoral list and made them as voters overnight.
This is nothing but subversion of democracy,” Shobha Karandlaje, BJP state general secretary, said.
In fact, even in the process of getting their names entered into voters list in Bangalore, the MLCs have not “followed due process of law and procedure” according to the report submitted to Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, by Manjunath Prasad, senior IAS officer and Commissioner of Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.
“There should be a minimum seven days gap from the date of submitting application for getting registered in the electoral rolls and the actual date on which the names are entered. However, mandatory seven day waiting clause has not been observed. In most of the cases, names were entered into the voters list the next day after the application was given. Due process of law and procedure has not been followed,” BBMP Commissioner’s report states. Uday India is in possession of the copy of the report.
Padmanabha Reddy says this undue haste in getting the names registered in the electoral list of Bengaluru by not observing procedure and due process of law is the violation of the Representation of People’s Act of 1951. “This is an open and shut case for the authorities to take action straight-away,” said R. Ashok, MLA and former deputy chief minister.
If violation of Representation of People’s Act of 1951 is bad, then something worse is to come.
These eight MLCs, after becoming voters of Bengaluru City, however, claimed TA/DA for attending committee meetings and legislature session by maintaining that they hail from different districts and hence they are entitled to draw TA/DA. “For the sake of participating in the elections to the Mayor of BBMP, these MLCs are residents of Bengaluru. However, for the sake of drawing TA/DA, they are the residents in their native districts. This is what we call capacity to be omni-present,”
said BJP spokesperson and former law minister S. Suresh Kumar, in a sarcastic tone.
Padmanabha Reddy has assiduously collected and collated all the documents, from the BBMP, from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of respective districts and from the Legislative Council Secretariat. He has petitioned to the Commissioner, BBMP, to D.H. Shankaramurthy, Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council, to the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka and finally to the Election Commission of India appealing to disqualify these eight MLCs for “perpetrating fraud on the Constitution of India as well as on the Upper House of the legislature”. Uday India is in possession of all the documents that are submitted to various authorities by Padmanabha Reddy.
A delegation of the Karnataka Unit of the BJP has called on Governor Vajubhai Vala seeking direction to disqualify these eight MLCs.
“We want an emphatic message go to the people that dishonesty, insincerity, absence of probity, lack of integrity and flagrant violation of Constitutional provisions on the part of elected representatives would attract punishment,” Jagadish Shettar, leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly and Aravinda Limbavali, BJP general secretary & former minister, said while speaking with Uday India.
But one of these eight MLCs – R.B. Thimmapura – have something different to say, though he sounded unconvincing and illogical. “BJP is a manuvaadi party. Its leaders do not want me, a dalit, to become minister,” he said. Another MLC, Raghu Achar said he would file a defamation suit against R Ashok for conducting a “malicious propaganda” against him.
But curiously, the BJP has targeted chief minister Siddaramaiah in this sordid episode and sought action against him. Said Shobha Karandlaje, “We are of the view that a fraud of this enormous dimension cannot take place without the pro-active & conscious aiding and abetment by none other than the Chief Minister. Authorities would not have dared to blatantly commit such heinous offences on their own.”
“An ideal worthy of emulation” is what elected representatives ought to be. People expect their representatives – be it MP, MLA, MLC or members of urban and rural local bodies – to be dignified in their behaviour, impeccably clean and honest in their public conduct; a scrupulous adherence to probity in public life and men of high integrity.
But going by the records and documents, it looks like that these “elders” of the Upper House of Karnataka legislature are found wanting on many counts.
By S. A. Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru