Controversy erupts over iPhone gift to Karnataka MPs

By PTI Published on Jul 18, 2018 03:30 PM IST

New Delhi / Bengaluru: A controversy has erupted over expensive iPhones gifted to MPs from Karnataka by a State Congress Minister with BJP terming it a "shame on democracy" even as chief minister H D Kumaraswamy pleaded ignorance about the largesse.

As the JDS-Congress coalition government came in the line of fire over the issue, Kumaraswamy said he was not aware of the gift and it was not discussed with him, but his ministerial colleague D K Shivakumar said they were given on his behalf as a "gesture" to the law makers.

The gift was given to 40 Karnataka MPs ahead of a meeting of them convened by Kumaraswamy in New Delhi to discuss State-related issues, including the Cauvery, to be taken up in the Parliament during the monsoon session beginning tomorrow.

"[email protected]_kumaraswamy's govt has enough money to gift expensive gadgets to MPs but, He can't waive off loans of farmers. He can't provide free bus passes to students. He can't allocate funds for development of coastal & north Karnataka. This govt is a shame on democracy," Karnataka BJP said in a tweet.

BJP's tweet came after party's Rajya Sabha member from the state Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote to Kumaraswamy returning the gift, saying the state should not waste public money when farmers and civic workers were in distress.

"Along with the papers for meeting, your Government has sent an expensive Apple iPhone, which costs more than Rs 1 Lakh, it is unacceptable that public money is misspent like this," he said in the letter.

He pointed to the Chief Minister's claims about austerity measures and civic workers in Bengaluru not being paid salaries on time, and farmers being in financial distress.

"My conscience does not permit me to accept this and with due respect to you, I am sending this phone back to you. Instead I urge you to pay the salaries of Pourakarmikas who tirelessly work to keep our city clean and focus on real austerity so that public money can be invested in those in need in our State," he added.

Chandrasekhar has also tweeted on the same with picture of the phone and what looks like a branded leather bag. Reacting to this, the Chief Minister said he was not aware of such gifts being given.

He said "I don't know who has given... I don't have any information in this regard. My office has not decided on giving any such gifts, there is no such directions. I don't know whether it has been given unofficially."

Asked how such gift was given without his knowledgeand if he would take any action in this regard, Kumaraswamy said "will get information on it and decide."

However, claiming to have given the iPhone on his personal behalf, Water Resources Minister Shivakumar said, he was not giving a bribe and it was only out of a good gesture.

"I'm not giving any bribe, it was only for sharing and feeding of information... it is out of a gesture," he told reporters in Bengaluru.

Claiming that several MPs called and thanked him, Shivakumar said he had given such gifts on an earlier occasion too, which a few of them did not accept.

"I don't want to tell names, but BJP MPs have called me and thanked me like last time this time also some have taken and some have not," he added.