3-party panel to probe council ruckus that drove deputy chairman to suicide

SL Dharmegowda, the Deputy Chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council in his suicide letter had reportedly expressed hurt for being heckled during the commotion in the House on December 15

Dharmegowda allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train between 11 pm and 12 midnight at Mankehalli railway track on Monday | File Photo: Council website

A special committee comprising members of the BJP, the Congress and the JD(S) has been formed to probe the ruckus in the Karnataka Legislative Council on December 15 that allegedly drove SL Dharmegowda, the Deputy Chairman of the House, to suicide.

Council chairperson K Pratapchandra Shetty has asked the panel to submit its report within 20 days.

A commotion broke out in the council on December 15 when members of BJP and JD(S) tried to take control of the 75-member House following a no-confidence motion against the chairperson (Shetty), a Congressman. While the latter was reportedly barred from entering the council by BJP legislators, Congress members forcibly pulled Dharmegowda, who belongs to the JD(S) from the chairman’s seat.

Dharmegowda allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train between 11 pm and 12 midnight at Mankehalli railway track on Monday. He had left behind a suicide note, contents of which the police refused to divulge. But, political leaders and Dharmegowda’s family said he had expressed his hurt over the political fallout in the Council earlier this month.

The formation of the probe committee comes after Council Secretary KR Mahalakshmi submitted a report on the incident to the chairman. In her report, Mahalakshmi said that some members had prevented Dharmegowda from occupying the chair by dragging him, after he “spontaneously” occupied the chairman’s seat to conduct the house proceedings, which in turn was against the rules.

Her reply came in response to a show cause notice issued by the chairman who alleged that she acted in a partisan manner to help Dharmegowda occupy the chairman’s seat.

Mahalakshmi said the deputy chairman occupied the seat even though she explained the rules to him and the quorum bell was still ringing. As per rules, Dharmegowda was not supposed to occupy the seat until quorum bell stopped ringing.

The ruling BJP, with the help of JD(S) wanted to remove Council Chairman Shetty through a no-confidence motion. On December 15 when the House members met for the day, the BJP allegedly locked the doors, preventing the chairman from entering the room and during this time Dharmegowda occupied the chairman’s seat before Shetty could arrive.

Dharmegowda’s act angered some of the Congress MLCs who asked him to vacate the chair. In the melee, several members and marshals inside the council were also manhandled. While the BJP and JD(S) members rushed to defend Dharmegowda, it led to a heated exchange of words and jostling between members from both sides. Later as Congress legislators force opened the door and let the chairman walk in, following which he adjourned the House sine die.

Dharmegowda was the elder brother of SL Bhojegowda, a sitting JD(S) MLC. JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, without naming anybody, has called Dharmegowda’s death a “poltical murder.”

“Dharmagowda’s suicide is a sacrifice for today’s polluted, unprincipled and selfish politics. The secularism of the JD(S) was tested for the position of chairperson. But, in the process, the heart of Dharmegowda became a victim. Now that they have got the answer, they should introspect,” Kumarasawamy tweeted.

Following the submission of a report last week by the secretary, his family members say Dharmegowda went into depression. JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda is reported to have spoken to the upset legislator and told him that he had not made any mistake by occupying the chair prior to the stopping of quorum bell.

Dharmegowda, who started his political career as the member of Bilekallahalli panchayat, went on to become an MLA from Birur Assembly constituency in 2004. During the coalition rule in 2018, he got elected as the Deputy Chairman unopposed.

On Tuesday (December 29), the police recovered his body from a railway track at Gunasagar village of Kadur Taluk in Chikmagalur district in the wee hours.

According to report, Gowda had asked his official gunman and escort to leave a day prior to the incident and he left his home at Shakarayapatna in his personal Santro car with his driver. As per police, his call details revealed that he had enquired about the arrival of the train at the nearby station. He then asked his driver to leave him as he had to meet someone.

The driver told local media that the legislator asked him to park the car near the railway track at Gunasagara saying he had to meet someone. When Gowda did not return even after midnight, the driver alerted authorities who mounted a search and found his body.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah said one has to look who forced him to occupy the council chairman’s seat, the event which triggered all this.