Just a day before BJP's BS Yeddyurappa faces the Supreme Court-ordered floor test in the Karnataka assembly, the Congress on Friday released an audio tape that the party claims shows how the BJP was trying to lure its legislators to support Chief Minister Yeddyurappa in the Karnataka assembly.
- Karnataka Congress plays tape ahead of BJP floor test today
- Says mining magnate accused of massive corruption called lawmaker
- Alleges he offered money, cabinet post and meeting with BJP chief
In this audio clip, the Congress said Janardhan Reddy, the scam-tainted mining baron linked to the BJP, was offering money and posts to Congress legislator from Raichur Rural seat for his support during the test of strength in the assembly.
"Janardhan Reddy clearly says he has the backing of BJP president Amit Shah for doing horse-trading (sic)," the Congress alleged in a tweet after its leaders played out the clip at a media briefing.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar rubbished the Congress charge. "There is a reference to Amit Shah in it... Amit Shah doesn't do this... Several such lies have been exposed," the senior BJP leader, calling the tape "false propaganda".
NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the audio clip.
According to the clip released by the Congress, a man, who was introduced as Janardhan Reddy, promises Congress lawmaker Basangouda Daddal of a ministerial berth and more for his support.
"You will be a minister," the caller is heard saying. He also promised a meeting with the party boss to demonstrate that the promises would be kept.
Basangouda Daddal declines the offer, asserting that he respected Janardhan Reddy but he could not betray the party that ensured his victory in the election.
The Congress and Janata Dal Secular, which made a joint bid for power after the BJP emerged as the single largest party in last week's Karnataka assembly elections, has been struggling to keep its flock together after Governor Vajubhai Vala invited Mr Yeddyurappa to form the government.
The Congress-JDS combine had initially sequestered the lawmakers in Bengaluru hotel but packed them off to Telangana capital Hyderabad about 600 km away to insulate them from pressures from the BJP. Later the Congress also asked its legislators to install a phone recording app so that they can record offers made by the BJP to them.
The narrative that the Congress is trying to build around the tapes could embarrass the BJP, not just because of the nature of the charges but also the persons involved. It puts Mr Shah, the BJP's master strategist, right in the middle of efforts by the Reddy brothers of Ballari to buy support.
BJP president Amit Shah had, more than once, emphatically disowned Janardhan Reddy through the election campaign, insisting that the BJP had nothing to do with Gali Janardhan Reddy, a notorious politician.
Notwithstanding Mr Shah's denials, Janardhan Reddy had nevertheless campaigned for BJP candidates in north Karnataka. "I am working for the BJP," the 49-year-old, out on bail since 2015, had told NDTV.
Janardhan Reddy spent three years in jail over multiple charges of corruption and illegal mining listed by the CBI. The former minister has resurfaced in the campaign for the May 12 Karnataka election.
He has been barred from entering his home-town Ballari, the heart of his mining empire. But on Wednesday, he was seen just outside the district, campaigning for his friend V Sriramulu, the BJP candidate in Molakalmuru.
A businessman-turned-politician, Janardhan Reddy is one of the most powerful men in Karnataka and is credited with playing a key role to help BS Yeddyurappa clear the floor test back in 2008.