Karnataka govt red-faced as ‘unknown official’ demands ₹3 lakh from Sarod Maestro’s Mysuru Dasara performance fee

Pandit Rajeev Taranath cancelled his concert after receiving an anonymous call seeking bribe. However, he may perform on 21 October.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 14, 2023 | 8:49 PMUpdatedOct 14, 2023 | 8:49 PM

Padma Shri Pandit Rajeev Taranath, sarod player

The ruling Congress in Karnataka is embroiled in another controversy after Sarod Maestro Pandit Rajeev Taranath withdrew from performing at the Mysuru Dasara celebrations after a government official allegedly demanded ₹3 lakh, a cut from the honorarium he would receive from the organisers.

After Pandit Taranath’s decision to skip the world-renowned festival, Minister of Social Welfare HC Mahadevappa, who is also in-charge of the Mysuru district, ordered the local administration to launch a probe into the incident.

The government went into troubleshooting mode following the allegation. The musician is likely to perform on 21 October.

Probe ordered

The Mysore district administration officials and the Mysore Palace Board members — the organisers of the event — took up the probe after they were criticised and massively trolled on social media.

“We had directed the Zilla Panchayat CEO in Mysore district, an IAS officer who heads the sub-committee of cultural programmes, to look into the matter. She visited Taranath and enquired about the allegation,” Mysuru Deputy Commissioner KV Rajendra told South First.

“We are also contemplating getting an FIR registered against unknown persons for impersonating a government official and calling Rajeev Taranath,” he added.

The controversy started with a Mysuru-based daily, Andolana, reported the bribe demand.

However, the maestro told government officials, who met him on Saturday, 14 October, afternoon that he had not told any newspapers about any issue. The Social Welfare Department even issued a press note after the meeting.

Also read: CID arrests 2 agriculture dept officials for sending ‘fake’ complaint

Demand for bribe

On Saturday, social media went abuzz with the news that Padma Shri Pandit Taranath had withdrawn from performing at the Mysore Dasara celebrations, starting from Sunday. His friends and well-wishers took to social media and lambasted the Congress government and the Mysore district administration over the demand for a ₹3 lakh cut by an anonymous official.

Sources said the Dasara organisers had approached Pandit Taranath’s daughter enquiring if her father would render a sarod recital at the celebrations.

However, since the maestro was unwell, there was no clarity on his participation. Later, the organisers contacted him and learned that he was charging ₹6 lakh per concert.

The artiste then alleged that he had received an anonymous phone call from a “government official” seeking ₹3 lakh as commission for allowing him to perform. He was also told that the Dasara organisers preferred outstation artistes to local artistes, and it would be difficult to accommodate him if he would not heed the demand.

Taranath refused to pay the commission and withdrew from performing. The musician confirmed that no one from either the government or the cultural committee had met him in person demanding any commission.

Also read: ‘Bribe giver as susceptible for prosecution as bribe taker’: HC

Pandit Taranath may perform

Pandit Taranath told South First that he was in touch with the Dasara organisers when he received the anonymous call. Not wanting to divulge the call details, he said every musician has a job to perform after an interview.

“If I get through the interview, I get the job, or else, I will search for another one,” he added.

When asked if he would change his mind if the government accepted his terms, he said he might consider it.

“If the government comes back to me with what suits a musician like me, then I will have a concert, or else no,” he said.

“I am 91 years old, and I have come this far only because of my Guru, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan,” Pandit Taranath added.

On Saturday, senior officials heading the sub-committee of the Dasara cultural programmes, met the musician at his house, seeking confirmation on his participation.

Pandit Taranath told them he was willing to perform if he got his deserved honorarium. The sub-committee then added his name to the list of participants and scheduled his hour-long concert for 21 October.