KPCC chief meets party leaders over their dinner with rival candidate

Bengaluru: Karnataka Pradesh Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao Friday summoned party leaders from Mandya, who recently held a meeting with independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, amid speculation that they worked against the coalition candidate in the Lok Sabha polls.

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil from JD(S) was the ruling coalition’s joint candidate from Mandya Lok Sabha constituency. According to party sources, former Ministers N Cheluvarayaswamy and P MNarendraswamy said during the meeting that as per the directions of the Congress, they had nowhere openly expressed support for Sumalatha or campaigned for her.

Alleging they were being targeted, as JD(S)’ plan was to weaken the Congress in Mandya, they also reportedly complained of Kumaraswamy’s possible involvement in CCTV footage release about the dinner meeting to the media, by influencing police.

There are also reports about the Chief Minister complaining to AICC General Secretary K C Venugopal about the conduct of local Congress leaders. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Rao downplayed the incident, saying the party could take it seriously if it was a political event, a programme with political intent or any talk of political support.

“They told me they were invited for dinner by someone, so they had gone there. Just because of having food with someone, we cannot call it an anti-party activity. If it was a political event or a programme with political intent or any talk of political support, we can take it seriously,” he said.

A video of some Congress leaders, including former Ministers N Cheluvarayaswamy and P M Narendraswamy, former legislator H C Balakrishna, Ravi Ganiga and Malavalli Shivannaat a dinner reportedly hosted by Sumalatha at a private hotel on Tuesday, had surfaced on Wednesday.

The video gave rise to speculation that these leaders had worked in favour of Sumalatha during the Lok Sabha polls. Cheluvarayaswamy said the dinner video that appeared in the media was discussed at the meeting with Rao and clarified they had attended the dinner as it was hosted by a friend, who was also known to Sumalatha and that’s why she had come there.

“This meeting or dinner party has taken place after the election, so it has no importance. I don’t know whether you (media) gave importance to it or someone insisted on giving importance to it.” Expressing doubts about the video of a private dinner party getting released to the media, Cheluvarayaswamy suspected that police might have been influenced to get the video from the hotel where the party took place.

Congress leaders from Mandya had stayed away from campaigning for Nikhil, citing Kumaraswamy himself not seekingtheir support as one of the reasons. Many of them had even extended support to Sumalatha, widow of actor-turned politician M H Ambareesh, through their supporters, who actively participated in her campaigning with Congress flags.

Meanwhile, Cheluvarayaswamy’s close friend and Congress Minister B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan, who was earlier with JD(S), defended the dinner meeting and said there was nothing wrong in it.

He pointed out that the dinner meeting did not take place during the elections and added that Cheluvarayaswamy and others were nowhere seen with Sumalatha during campaigning. Khan also noted that Kumaraswamy should have spoken to local Congress leaders and taken them into confidence, ahead of election.