Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, however, said he was not aware of the gifts to MPs and would inquire into the matter.

Ktaka govt gifts iPhones leather bags to MPs Rajeev Chandrasekhar slams HDK
news Controversy Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - 15:19

Does the Karnataka government have no money for paying the salaries of civic workers in Bengaluru, who keep the city running but at the same time have funds to gift expensive iPhones to members of Parliament? This is the criticism that a BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has levelled against HD Kumaraswamy-led Karnataka government.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Tuesday took to Twitter to criticise Kumaraswamy for the government’s misplaced priorities after parliamentarians were given an iPhone X each by the state.

An iPhone X costs between Rs 89,000 (64 GB) and Rs 1.02 lakh (256 GB). The iPhones came with a Moochies laptop bag, which costs at least Rs 5,000.  

The state owes its civic workers close to Rs 150 crore.

In the tweet, Chandrasekhar thanked Chief Minister Kumaraswamy for convening a meeting of all MPs to discuss the Cauvery issue, but questioned the wisdom of handing out expensive mobile phones. At a time when pourakarmikas or civic workers in Bengaluru are being denied salaries, Rajeev Chandrasekhar questioned why public money is being used for expensive gifts.  

Chandrasekhar has also written a letter to the Chief Minister over the issue. "On one hand you claim austerity measures and we all know Pourakarmikas in Namma Bengaluru are not being paid Salaries and are in desperate straits, one Pourakarmika was even forced to commit suicide, farmers are in financial distress and so it is unacceptable that public money would be misspent like this (sic)," reads the letter.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kumraswamy said he was not aware about the gifts, stating, “I don't know anything about the iPhones. It has not come to my notice. I have not asked anyone to give iPhones," Kumaraswamy said.

Chandrasekhar also confirmed that he would be returning the phone given as a gift and urged the government to pay the salaries of pourakarmikas instead. "My conscience does not permit me to accept this and with due respect to you, I am sending this phone back to you. Instead I urge you to pay the salaries of Pourakarmikas who tirelessly work to keep our city clean and focus on real austerity so that public money can be invested in those in need in our state," the letter states. 

While it has been speculated that it was Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar's decision to give out the iPhones, Kumaraswamy said, "That is the information I received but I am not sure who gave the phones. I will inquire into this and then decide the further course of action."

Several MPs in the state confirmed that they received mobile phones on Saturday and MPs belonging to the BJP are planning to return their phones in a united show of protest.  "We are all planning to return the phones together since we do not agree with money spent on this," BJP MP PC Mohan says. 

The news comes at a time the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) which is also run by a JD(S)-Congress alliance, claims to be short of money when it comes to paying pourakarmikas but seems to have funds aplenty to splurge on iPads for all corporators.

Chandrasekhar was nominated as a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha by BJP earlier this year.

Read: Misplaced priorities? No money for civic workers but corporators given iPads by BBMP

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