Being punished for speaking truth, says Congress MLA Baig

Bengaluru: Senior Karnataka legislator R Roshan Baig, who was suspended by the Congress on Tuesday for attacking its state leadership, Wednesday said he was a “disciplined soldier of the party” and was being punished for speaking the truth.

Asserting that his comments against state Congress leaders were the opinion of the party workers, he said he was in the Indian National Congress headed by Rahul Gandhi and “not in the Siddu (Siddaramaiah) Congress… Last night, I got the information that I have been suspended from the party…Is it a crime to speak the truth? What I have said is the truth,” Baig said.

Speaking to reporters here, he said he had not criticised Gandhi and that he continued to be a “disciplined soldier of the party… My criticism of state leaders is true. Is speaking the truth a crime?” said Baig, who was suspended on Tuesday night with immediate effect, citing “anti-party” activities.

Hitting out at Karnataka Congress leaders for the party’s dismal show in the Lok Sabha polls, Baig had recently held Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah’s “arrogance” and KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao’s “immaturity” responsible for the “flop show”. He had also called Congress general secretary K C Venugopal a “buffoon”. Baig had dropped hints of quitting the party and appealed to Muslims to “compromise” with the situation on the BJP-led NDA returning to power at the Centre.

The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) had issued a show-cause notice to the MLA for his conduct, to which he had not responded. Noting that Gandhi had offered to resign as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) president, taking responsibility for the poll defeat, Baig said, “When we criticise here in the state for the party winning only one seat in the Lok Sabha polls, action is being taken.”

“What I have said about a few of our state leaders is the opinion of thousands of our karyakartas,” he said. Baig, a seven-time MLA and a former Karnataka minister, has been unhappy with the state Congress leadership over not being included in the coalition cabinet headed by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.

The senior leader said he felt “sorry” for Gandhi and alleged that the Lok Sabha poll campaign in Karnataka was run in such a way that “we were not involved and there was no political management”. “…I have not criticised Rahul Gandhi. He is the Indian National Congress president. I am in the Indian National Congress, not in the Siddu Congress. “I am a disciplined soldier of the Indian National Congress and was upset about the state of the party in Karnataka,” he said.

Gundu Rao had Tuesday said Baig’s alleged links with IMA Jewels, which is involved in an alleged financial fraud that duped thousands of investors, would also be brought to the notice of the party’s central leadership.

State Revenue Minister R V Deshpande had Monday said Baig had introduced the firm’s owner, Mohammed Mansoor Khan, to him about two months ago, but denied doing any undue favour to him. Not willing to comment on the IMA Jewels case, Baig said the matter was before a Special Investigation Team (SIT). “I will tell the SIT whatever I need to,” he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to “Siddu Congress” comment, Siddaramaiah told reporters in New Delhi “Whichever Congress he is in, I have nothing to do with it. We are all in Indian National Congress.” On Baig’s allegation about being singled out, while no action has been taken on others, he said “it is party’s decision, it is not Siddaramaiah who suspended him.”

Gundu Rao said it was a decision taken by the party after the AICC president’s approval. “AICC will conduct inquiry now, before which he (Baig) can now go and explain whatever he has to say,” he said. Veteran congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said if there are any issues it should be discussed within, in the interest of the party, instead of making statements in front of the media. “Whether it is Roshan Baig or any one, my only message is no one should make open comments against the party or AICC leadership,” he added.