Karnataka polls 2023: Antecedents no bar as parties field candidates with criminal records

While BJP nominated three candidates with criminal antecedents, Congress and SP fielded one each in Dharwad and Afzalpur, respectively.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Apr 19, 2023 | 12:12 PM Updated Apr 19, 2023 | 12:12 PM

Mankiantha Rathod (BJP), Vinay Kulkarni (Congress) LC Nagaraj (BJP) RD Patil (SP) and Katta Jagadish Naidu (BJP)

A murder accused banned from entering his constituency, a rowdy sheeter with over 30 cases in five districts, an accused in an attempt to murder case, and a man accused of a ₹4,000 crore Ponzi scam are the candidates fielded by different parties for the 10 May Assembly polls in Karnataka.

The Opposition parties were quick to pounce on the BJP when its leaders warmed up to rowdy sheeters.

On 12 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi likened a rowdy sheeter, Mallikarjun alias ‘Fighter’ Ravi, to Buddha. He made the remark when Ravi met him at the helipad in Mandya.

Ravi was not the only one with criminal antecedents to rub shoulders with the BJP. The saffron party’s leaders, earlier on 27 November, shared the dais with another history sheeter, Sunil, alias Silent Sunil.

Both Ravi and Sunil, reportedly, were aspiring to contest the Assembly polls as BJP candidates.

The BJP denied tickets to both but fielded another rowdy sheeter, Manikantha Rathod, who faces more than 30 criminal cases in at least five districts in Karnataka.

The Congress, despite its acerbic remarks against the BJP hobnobbing with criminal elements, nominated Vinay Kulkarni as its candidate in Dharwad. However, Kulkarni, a murder accused, has been banned from entering Dharwad.

All is fair in politics

Manikantha Rathod is trying his luck against sitting MLA Priyank M Kharge, son of AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, in the Chittapur Assembly constituency.

Manikantha Rathod from Chittapur assembly constituency

Manikantha Rathod is the BJP candidate in Chittapur Assembly constituency. (Sourced)

Rathod has been charged with attempted murder, smuggling narcotics substances, possession of illegal firearms, and illegal transportation of Anna Bhagya rice, etc.

He was arrested in November last for threatening to kill Priyank Kharge. He issued the threat at a news conference that he would gun down the Congress leader.

Following the threat, the Kalaburagi police commissioner externed him from the city for a year. Rathod, however, challenged the police directive in a local court and received a stay order.

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The ‘forbidden’ constituency

The BJP is not alone in fielding tainted candidates. The Congress has fielded Vinay Kulkarni, a murder accused, in the Dharward segment.

Vinay Kulkarni contesting from Dharwad constituency

Congress candidate Vinay Kulkarni has been prohibited from entering the Dharwad district. (Sourced)

Kulkarni, however, received a major jolt when the Karnataka Special Representatives Court on Tuesday, 18 April,  denied him permission to enter Dharwad. The Supreme Court, while granting him conditional bail, had also prohibited him from entering the district.

A former minister of mines and geology, Kulkarni is a key accused in the 2016 murder of BJP Zilla Panchayat leader Yogesh Gowda.

It has been alleged that Kulkarni contracted a gang to eliminate Gowda.

The Additional City Civil and Session Court, Special Court for People’s Representatives, barred him from entering Dharwad after admitting the CBI’s plea that he might try to influence about 90 witnesses residing in that district.

Kulkarni’s presence would affect and jeopardise the case’s progress, the CBI counsel argued, adding that the influential Congress leader could pressure witnesses into turning hostile.

The CBI also informed the court that providing security to all the witnesses would be impossible. It also pointed out one of the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court in its bail order in August 2021 was that Kulkarni should not enter the Dharwad district.

However, the CBI’s counsel also submitted that there was a provision for filing of nomination for election through a representative, like Kulkarni’s wife or a family member, and his presence was not required.

Incidentally, Kulkarni’s wife Shivaleela Kulkarni filed his nomination papers in Dharwad on Tuesday.

Kulkarni had lost to the BJP’s Amrut Ayyappa Desai by a margin of more than 20,000 votes in 2018.

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Katta Jagadish gets BJP ticket

The third list of BJP candidates released on Monday, 17 April, included the name of Katta Jagadish, an accused in an attempted murder case. He will be contesting from Hebbal.

Katta Jagadish Naidu contesting from Hebbal constituency

Katta Jagadish Naidu is contesting from the Hebbal constituency

Incidentally, the BJP had earlier asserted that it would not field those with criminal antecedents in the elections.

Besides Rathode and Jagadish, former KAS officer LC Nagaraj, a main accused in the IMA Ponzi scam, too, has managed a BJP ticket.

Jagadish, son of former minister and Hebbal MLA Katta Subramanya Naidu, and his associates were booked after they had allegedly attacked a few men in Sanjay Nagar on 10 March night. The attack was following a row over putting up a banner.

Based on a complaint from local resident Santosh T, the Sanjay Nagar Police registered a case against Jagadish Naidu, his associate Puneet Kumar and others under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation).

Santosh complained that he and a few others were attacked while they were tying banners for a festival near the Nagashettyhalli bus stop. Jagadish and his associate Puneet objected and picked up a quarrel.

The complainant also alleged that Jagadish and his aides abused and assaulted them. They were also threatened with death if they visited the area again.

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BJP fields IMA scam accused

Former KAS officer and an accused in the ₹4,000-crore IMA Ponzi scheme scandal LC Nagaraj is the BJP candidate in the Madhugiri Assembly constituency, Tumakuru district.

LC Nagaraj contesting from Madhugiri constituency

an accused in the ₹ 4000-crore IMA Ponzi scheme scandal. (Sourced)

He will be taking on sitting MLA MV Veerabhadraiah of the JD(S) and KN Rajanna of the Congress.

Nagaraju was the first government official to be arrested in the I Monetary Advisory (IMA) scam on 5 July, 2019. It has been alleged that he had received ₹4.5 crore to submit a pro-IMA report, despite an RBI alert.

He was then the assistant commissioner of Bengaluru North.

The IMA, a Bengaluru-based investment firm, allegedly collected thousands of crores from the public, promising high dividends.

In 2019, the company failed to return the money, and shut down its offices, leaving more than 41,000 investors in the lurch.

A special investigation team arrested Nagaraj on charges of accepting ₹4.5 crore in bribes and giving a no-objection certificate to the IMA group’s founder Mohammed Mansoor Khan.

The case is still pending in court.

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SP ticket for PSI scam accused 

Rudragouda Patil alias RD Patil, the alleged kingpin in the Police Sub-Inspector (PSI) recruitment scandal, will contest the Assembly polls as a Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from Kalaburagi’s Afzalpur Assembly constituency.

RD Patil contesting from Afzalpur constituency in Kalaburagi

RD Patil contesting from Afzalpur constituency in Kalaburagi. (Sourced)

The 39-year-old Patil rode a police vehicle from the prison to file his nomination papers on Monday. The high court granted him bail on Tuesday.

He filed two sets of papers, one as the Samajwadi Party candidate and another one as an independent. He had declared assets worth ₹ 6.5 crore.

Claiming that he had been falsely implicated in the PSI recruitment scam, Patil, in January, had released a seven-minute video stating that he was ready to contest in the Assembly polls.

In the viral video, he accused a few police officers of bowing to political pressure and “fixing” him. The conspiracy, he claimed, was hatched by a few who did not want him or his brother, Congress leader Mahantesh Patil, to grow politically.

The CID registered a case against Patil, naming him as the kingpin. Patel, who was on the run for four days after forcefully avoiding arrest, surrendered before a court on 23 January.

He was out on bail when he allegedly pushed away CID officers and went on the lam.

Meanwhile, the Kalaburagi bench of the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday stayed all the proceedings against Patil and directed the lower court to hear all the 11 cases registered against him together.

(With PTI inputs)