Bengaluru(PTI): The Congress in Karnataka on Wednesday found itself in a tight spot after a video showed a purported conversation between the party media coordinator M A Saleem and former Lok Sabha member V S Ugrappa attributing the Congress State president D K Shivakumar's involvement in a scam when he was a Minister.

Taking strong exception to the clipping that went viral, Shivakumar said he cannot deny that the conversation did not take place and rejected the content of the conversation.

Acting swiftly, the party expelled Saleem from the party for six years and served a show-cause notice to Ugrappa, who is Congress spokesperson, seeking an explanation in three days.

The conversation is said to be related to the scams in the Irrigation Department in which Shivakumar was allegedly involved when he was Irrigation Minister in the coalition government of Congress- JD(S), which ran for 14 months and collapsed in June 2019.

However, Ugrappa clarified Saleem was only briefing him what the BJP people have been talking about the raids carried out by the Income Tax (I-T) Department since October 7 against three major contractors executing irrigation and highway project on 47 premises in four States, including Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The search and seizure by the I-T officials have resulted in detection of undisclosed income of about Rs 750 crore, the I-T Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

Minutes before the press conference by Ugrappa on Tuesday, Saleem sat next to him and started whispering about the scams.

"Earlier, it was eight per cent. He increased it to 12 per cent. These are all adjustments by DKS," Saleem is heard saying in the purported video.

"Uppar and G Shankar, the one from Hospet in Ballari, whom you know. Uppar is from Bengaluru," Saleem was seen explaining.

When Ugrappa corrected that Uppar is from Vijayapura, Saleem said Uppar's house is right opposite to former Chie Minister S M Krishna's in Bengaluru.

"It's (Irrigation) a big scandal. If dug properly, his (D K Shivakumar) role will also come out. You don't know, sir, the three made Rs 50-100 crore. If they had made so much (of wealth), then guess how much he (Shivakumar) would have made. He is a collection 'giraaki' (extortionist)," Saleem is heard saying.

In reply, Ugrappa said he did not know those things.

"I don't know this. We all made a point to make him (Shivakumar) State president. That's why I am not saying anything. These are the reasons...," Ugrappa is heard saying.

Further, Saleem said Shivakumar stammers these days.

"He stammers these days, maybe because of low BP or something else," Saleem said to which Ugrappa agreed.

Saleem also wondered whether Shivakumar drinks and even gets emotional these days.

He then hailed Siddaramaiah for his strong body language. Shivakumar said the conversation has actually taken place.

Reacting to it, he said the media has shown Saleem and Ugrappa speaking against the party State chief.

"You have shown that they have spoken ill against me. I will not deny it. They have spoken against me. Ugrappa has give a statement in a press conference," Shivakumar said.

He said he has no connection with the content of the conversation.

"I am unrelated to what they have spoken. I was never part of any 'percentage' (share in contracts) and I don't need it. I have no connection with it (share in contracts)," Shivakumar said.

Clarifying his position, Ugrappa held a press conference today and said Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah are like two eyes and both were dear to him.

Ugrappa said Saleem was briefing him about what the BJP leaders were talking outside. However, the place chosen by him was wrong and he could have spoken in private and not before the media, he clarified.

The developments come well ahead of the crucial bypolls to Sindagi and Hanagal Assembly segments on October 30.

Also, it has come at a time when the party has geared up for the Assembly elections, which is one-and-a-half years away.

The party had also seen in the past the show of strength between the factions of Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah. Ugrappa and Saleem are considered as Siddaramaiah's close aides.

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Hong Kong, Oct 25: Amnesty International said Monday it would close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease its operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city.

The human rights group said its local office in Hong Kong would close this month while its regional office will close by the end of the year, with regional operations moved to other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong's national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government, Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty's board, said in a statement.

Hong Kong implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 following months of massive anti-government protests. The law outlaws secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs. More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city's democracy movement, have been arrested under the law.

The majority of the city's prominent pro-democracy activists are behind bars for taking part in unauthorized assemblies, and dozens of political organizations and trade unions have ceased operations out of concern for their members' personal safety under the security law.

Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signaled authorities were intensifying their campaign to rid the city of dissenting voices. It is increasingly difficult for us to keep operating in such an unstable environment, she said.

Critics in Hong Kong say the national security law is an erosion of freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, that were promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.