The Bangalore police is not as soft on the heirs of the rich and powerful as it has been with CM H.D. Kumaraswamy's son.
- Last fortnight Adam, fashion designer Prasad Bidappa's son, was arrested for assaulting the police outside a bar
- In October, Rakesh, son of former deputy CM Siddaramaiah, and his friends were arrested following a scuffle
- Suryakanth, son of ex-minister Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli, was arrested in January for opening fire in a city pub
- Former CM Devraj Urs' daughter, Bharati, is in jail for murdering her cousin
- Former CM K. Hanumanthiah's grandson, involved in petrol pump robberies, was acted against by the police
In fact, 'Gowdagiri' is the portmanteau word the Karnataka press has coined to describe the Deve Gowda family's brazenness in justifying CM Kumraswamy's son Nikhil Gowda's antics.
In the wee hours of October 26, Nikhil and his two friends demanded that food be served from the empty kitchen of Bangalore's Hotel Empire. Deve Gowda defended his grandson and Kumaraswamy commented before the media daily, giving it a different spin each time. If that wasn't enough, in what is a routine case of rowdy behaviour, state police chief B.S. Sial and city police commissioner Neelam Achuta Rao have batted for the accused. Their boss and home minister, M.P. Prakash, dismissed the incident as pardonable "juvenile delinquency" and indicated action against the hotel for staying open beyond permitted hours.
Gowda, in his press meet, pulled out a speech he had made as Opposition leader in 1974 when then CM Devaraj Urs' son-in-law was accused of assaulting military officials. The relevant excerpt from the speech said: "It's not right to blame the CM for the acts done by his kith and kin." This was a message he was sending to the opposition Congress and coalition partner BJP not to politicise the Nikhil issue. The Congress bit the bait and declared it a "non-issue". Nobody asked the BJP for comments.
Kumaraswamy, admitting with grace to his son's ill-doings on the first day, said "boys will be boys" and blamed it all on Bangalore's "lifestyle and the circle of friends". The next day, there was quiet as the police, sources say, went into cover-up mode. The hotel's CCTV recording, the key evidence in the case, was being "managed". Once that was handled, Kumaraswamy changed his tune on October 29. He said: "A conspiracy was hatched to trap my son and defame the family." He added that his son was resting after dinner at the CM's official bungalow, when he was lured out around 11.30 pm by his friends with the singular intention to trap him.
Nikhil's pal Syed Ehtesham was made the fall guy. The next day, the CM extended the conspiracy logic to include a Congress leader who was instrumental in Deve Gowda's defeat from the Kanakapura parliamentary seat in 2004. Meanwhile, the cops had dug up Syed's criminal record and had turned their focus. Nobody asked why Nikhil befriended a person like Syed and gave him access to the CM's residence.
Meanwhile, 'Gowdagiri' reached a shrill pitch when both the patriarch and his CM-son dragged in Mahatma Gandhi's name. Gowda said: "I know of such incidents involving Mahatma Gandhi's grandchildren too." Kumaraswamy, when asked, said: "I have asked my son to read Gandhi's writings. I said even Gandhi had admitted to erring in his youth, which is natural."
What made the Nikhil incident a study in contrast was that only a week ago, the law was allowed to run its course when Adam Bidappa and Judith Bidappa, son and wife respectively of fashion guru Prasad Bidappa, were charged with assaulting the police outside a bar. In sheer disgust Prasad Bidappa wrote in a letters-to-the-editor column: "...His severe beating, his overnight detention...and a night in jail followed in quick succession, yet he is referred to as the son of a 'powerful' father. What power is the media referring to? The power that had him arrested and sent to jail like a dangerous criminal? What is the power that compares me to our honourable CM? I am nothing but an ordinary citizen of Bangalore.... My son works a regular job in a garment export firm and drives a two-year-old Indica, not a Hummer or a Porsche (like Nikhil)."
A month before the Adam incident, Rakesh Siddaramaiah, son of Gowda's bete noire and former deputy CM Siddaramaiah, was involved in a scuffle over a monetary issue. The police booked a criminal case and arrested him and his associates and later released them on bail. On January 21, N. Suryakanth, son of another of Gowda's former colleagues and ex-minister, Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli opened fire in a city pub. The police again followed procedure and the case is before the high court. Former CM Devaraj Urs' daughter Bharati Urs is lodged at the Central Jail after she was charged with murdering her cousin in 2004. When such is the record of the law, the big question is why has no action been taken in the Nikhil case? The police, when asked, were tight-lipped.
However, former city police commissioner P. Kodandaramaiah told Outlook: "I know that senior police officers are happy that the accused has not been named in the FIR. That saves them from trouble. But Nikhil was the first complainant; there is a clear admission of involvement. He has signed the FIR and his left thumb impression record is there in the Bowring Hospital where he was taken for treatment. The hotel guys came and lodged an FIR later. Any fool can say that the two cases are linked. Then why is Nikhil not being interrogated?" He also added that IGP Sial and Commissioner Rao had "no business" in going to the press. "They were sending the right signals to junior officers to go slow in the case," he says.
Recalling an incident when he was city police deputy commissioner, he said: "The then CM Kengal Hanumanthiah's grandson was involved in petrol pump robberies. The CM sent for me when we took him into custody. In the presence of former RS MP Satchidananda Swamy, he instructed me to treat his grandson like an ordinary criminal and take strict action. I see no such impartiality in Gowda and Kumaraswamy."
Commenting on the issue for the first time, BJP leader and deputy CM B.S. Yediyurappa, who has an uneasy relationship with the CM, said: "The law should take its course. Any kind of discrimination in the investigation is deplorable." A veiled hint that some people should not be more equal before the law, but surely this comment is not bold enough to breach the coalition arrangement his party has with the JD(S).