What has Siddaramaiah to hide on Karnataka police officer's suicide?
BJP legislators protested by spending the night in the Assembly hall, making the CM spend a sleepless night.
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At the entrance to the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore is inscribed "Government's Work is God's work". On Wednesday night, the protesting BJP legislators took it rather literally and squatted on the steps of the Assembly, singing bhajans.
They were upset over the Siddaramaiah government's refusal to hand over DSP MK Ganapathy's suicide case to the CBI. So in protest, the Opposition decided to spend the night in the House instead of at home.Protesting BJP legislators spent the night in the Karnataka Assembly hall.
Ever since two DSPs killed themselves within a week in Karnataka, the Congress government has found the going tough. Especially because Ganapathy - about 90 minutes before he hanged himself at a lodge in Madikeri town - went to a local Kannada channel and recorded a message that if anything happens to him, former Karnataka home minister KJ George (at present Bangalore city minister) and two senior IPS officers will be responsible.
The Opposition went for the jugular, accusing the chief minister of shielding his key minister. Siddaramaiah gave the three named a clean chit, even before any of them had been questioned. So much for the law of the land being followed.
But finding that the Opposition was in no mood to relent, Siddaramaiah realised that MK Ganapathy case was becoming a case of DK Ravi revisited. In March 2015, IAS officer DK Ravi was found dead and the Opposition had raised a stink, claiming he was the victim of political pressure.
After several days of resisting pressure, Siddaramaiah finally handed over the DK Ravi case to the CBI, which subsequently did not find anything suspicious in the officer's death.
Siddaramaiah has not learnt from his mistakes. Just like in the DK Ravi case, he has lost the perception battle.
The man on the street believes the CM has something to hide, which is why he is reluctant to let CBI probe the case, and has ordered a judicial probe under duress. Parallel probes by the local police and the CID when George, a powerful minister is still in the Cabinet, come across looking like an eyewash.
The recent controversy around the CM wearing an expensive Hublot watch (a gift) was the longest-running silly political controversy but Karnataka chief minister's sense of timing is pathetic. By not taking the decision at the right time, he allowed matters to precipitate, giving the Opposition a chance to engage in theatrics.
It was a bad move, given that the knives are already out for Siddaramaiah after last month's Cabinet reshuffle in which he dropped over a dozen ministers. Most believe the Congress image is taking a beating to protect one minister.
Can there be smoke without fire, the opposition asks. How is it that Ganapathy named George, who was moved out of home ministry in October last year, and not G Parameshwara, the present home minister, if the grouse was only related to probes and work atmosphere?
On his part, Siddaramaiah argues that the TV recording of Ganapathy cannot be construed as a dying declaration. He says, that is because - and this is classic - the DSP did not say he is going to kill himself on TV. In the same breath, he also blames the media for not alerting the local police about the recording.
To take on the Opposition, Siddaramaiah has asked the "devil" BJP not to quote the scriptures, pointing out that its leader BS Yeddyurappa had to resign as CM and go to prison, on charges of corruption.Opposition legislators, well-prepared with mattresses, bedsheets, pillows and night wear spent the night in the Karnataka Assembly hall.
But there are political reasons for Siddaramaiah to shield George too. He is the only Christian minister in the Karnataka government and is believed to enjoy clout with 10, Janpath. The criticism that would come the CM's way is that he could not even deftly handle a crisis and questions would be raised over his leadership skills. The BJP has already charged Siddaramaiah of stalling a CBI probe only to protect a "Christian minister".
The Congress has tried to blunt the attack by planting stories that three departmental enquiries against Ganapathy had reduced him to a psychological wreck. The family has denied any of this, calling it mudslinging and character assassination of a dead man.
Parameshwara, on the floor of the House, blamed ill-treatment by Ganapathy's wife as the reason for the DSP taking the extreme step. He was quoting a letter reportedly written by Ganapathy's father stating so. Ganapathy's father Kushalappa denied the contents saying that he was asked to sign on a letter in his moment of grief and he did so without reading it.
However, no one is disputing that having three probes against him would have had a bearing on Ganapathy's demeanour and could have affected his approach to work. But by his obstinate approach, Siddaramaiah has come out looking bad, as if he has skeletons in his government's cupboard.
Opposition legislators, well-prepared with mattresses, bedsheets, pillows and night wear, prepare to spend Thursday night also in the Karnataka Assembly hall, hope to make Siddaramaiah spend a sleepless night.
The options for the CM are limited because if he fails to act to limit the political damage, he will be accused of sleeping on the job.