Going rate for RS, MLC seat in Karnataka runs in crores

It’s an open secret that some political parties are, literally, auctioning MP/MLC seats to the highest bidder.

Naturally, no politician will go on record; instead will take the high moral ground that such unsavory things to not happen in his/her party as chief minister Siddaramaiah and BJP state president Prahalad Joshi have predictably done. The reality of the matter is that for close to a decade indirect elections to the Upper House of the parliament and the legislative council have increasingly become a case of ‘show me the money’. Not in all cases, but in enough numbers to set alarm bells ringing.

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The lid on this sordid matter has been blown by a bona fide source: a former chief minister and the son of a former Prime Minister HD Kumaraswamy might have been cornered into coming clean, but he deserves our kudos for at least being brave enough to own up to it.

The trend, according to political sources, started in early 2000s and peaked in the 2008 Karnataka legislative assembly elections. In fact, prior to Kumaraswamy’s statement, Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Haryana, Birender Singh had admitted in 2012 that he was told Rs 100 crore is required to get a Rajya Sabha berth. Singh had gloated over saving Rs 20 crore, as he paid Rs 80 crore to get in to the Upper House!

According to a senior Karnataka politician from the opposition, the going rate was between Rs 60 crore to Rs 100 crore for a Rajya Sabha seat and Rs 28 crore for a legislative council seat this time in the state. Though elections to the 11 seats (four RS and seven council) were unanimous, the JD(S) called the shots for one RS and two council seats. The party had publicly promised in 2013 to make its national secretary-general Danish Ali a Rajya Sabha MP. He was dumped and the party adopted realtor Kupendra Reddy, who quit the Congress only to get into the RS.

The story repeated for the council elections. The JD(S), with its 40 MLAs, discarded party loyalists and gave its surplus votes to a BJP candidate, realtor DU Mallikarjuna and the party’s identity to a proprietor of a chain of gold showrooms in Bangalore, TA Saravana. The latter reportedly was chosen following pressure from the women folk of Deve Gowda’s family. Mallikarjuna’s payback was to take the party’s MLAs on a holiday to Colombo, which Kumaraswamy chose to describe as an occasion for “bonding”.

Since 2004, the JD(S) has turned benefactor to business magnates seeking to get into the Rajya Sabha or the council. In 2004, the party surprised all by backing businessman and renowned horse-owner MAM Ramswamy. In 2006 and 2012, businessman Rajeev Chandrashekar was the choice. In 2008, it was Anil Lad, a miner from the Congress party. In 2010, business tycoon Vijay Mallya and this time, Reddy.

Sale of seats happens for many reasons. People with money to spare want to become members of the country’s most exclusive club: the Rajya Sabha or the upper houses of state assemblies. It’s matter of prestige more than power.

Also, “The victory is 100% assured unlike in Lok Sabha or assembly elections, where even after spending a huge amount one is not sure of winning. Secondly, one is guaranteed of a stable membership of the House for six years irrespective of the member party’s prospects,” a political insider said.

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