BJP-Congress trade corruption charges against each other as poll race hots up in Karnataka

Congress has filed a complaint against Gokak BJP MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi for announcing ₹6,000 per vote deeming it electoral malpractice.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 26, 2023 | 3:10 PMUpdated Jan 26, 2023 | 3:10 PM

BJP-Congress trade corruption charges against each other as poll race hots up in Karnataka

Under consistent Opposition attack over charges of corruption, the BJP in Karnataka has dug out allegations from 2013 to 2018 — when Siddaramaiah was chief minister — to counter the Congress.

Two days after the BJP filed a complaint with the Karnataka Lokayukta against former chief minister Siddaramaiah alleging irregularities in “Tender-Sure” (specifications for urban road execution) projects during his regime in 2013-14, the latter has denied the allegations.

BJP SC Morcha president and MLC Chalavadi Narayanswamy had filed the complaint with the Lokayukta on 23 January.

Narayanswamy told reporters: “Siddaramaiah-led-Congress government released 53.86 percent excess grants than the actual tendered project cost. We have submitted a relevant document to the Lokayukta.”

“As many as 65 cases were against Siddaramaiah and instead of inquiring into them, he decided to shut down the Lokayukta. Around 10 cases were given to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). He was given a clean chit in all these cases. The remaining 50 cases against the former chief minister have to be investigated,” reiterated Narayanswamy.

Refuting the allegations, Siddaramaiah told reporters: “Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is behind these allegations. They are making these BJP ministers, MLAs and MLCs to talk against me and file a complaint. Why was the BJP government quiet for three years? Why are they making baseless allegations against me now?”

Related: Siddaramaiah predicts Congress government in Karnataka

“There were in the Opposition, why did they not utter a word then? Now, they have filed a complaint with Lokayukta. They have been in power for the past three years. As we have levelled corruption charges against this government and released the charge sheet, in order to distract the people they are making these baseless allegations against me,” retorted Siddaramaiah.

‘₹35,000 crore scam’

Another allegation against the Congress came from Karnataka Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr K Sudhakar.

“The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audit had found illegitimate deals worth ₹35,000 crore during Siddaramaiah’s regime. Under the pretence of renovation, over 900 acres of the property wer denotified,” said Sudhakar, who was the Congress MLA of Chikkaballapur Assembly segment in Siddaramaiah’s tenure.

He further said: “The former minister KJ George was also involved in corruption. When he was Bengaluru Urban Development Minister, he raised the estimate of white topping from ₹292 crore to ₹374 crore. The company’s original estimation was ₹75 crore for 9.47 km and it was increased to ₹115 crore.”

“When Siddaramaiah was at the helm, his government did nothing but indulge in corruption. He set up the ACB with an intention of burying all his scams. This was one of the main reasons for shutting down the Lokayukta,” alleged Sudhakar.

Regretting giving the party ticket to Sudhakar in 2013, Siddaramaiah said: “He is the most corrupt minister in the Bommai government. He does not have financial knowledge and has not understood the CAG report. It is Bommai who is asking Sudhakar to make these allegations against me.”

Related: Goonda raj, says Congress as Siddaramaiah’s car is attacked

“I verified the CAG report again but no irregularities were found in the report. BJP leaders, including MLC N Ravikumar, are all liars. The financial condition of the government has worsened under the BJP government. In the span of three years, the debt has doubled,” charged Siddaramaiah.

“I had handed over many alleged scams against my government to the CBI. In the last three years, has the BJP government given at least one case to the CBI? I demand the government order a judicial enquiry into the allegations made by both the parties on each other,” challenged the CLP leader.

Congress targets Ramesh Jarkiholi

Amidst the anti-incumbency wave against the BJP, Congress has filed a case against the BJP’s former minister and Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi for reportedly luring voters with a promise of paying ₹6,000 per person in order to vote BJP in a event at Belagavi on Wednesday, 25 January.

Jarkiholi had said: “The gifts given by them (Congress) might cost anywhere around ₹1,000 per person. It might also increase up to ₹3,000. I will give ₹6,000 per voter, exercise your franchise in our (BJP) favour.”

The grand old party has also filed complaints against the BJP national president JP Nadda, state president Nalin Kumar Kateel and Bommai and accused them of violating the Representation of People Act, 1951, and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In a two-page letter, KPCC president DK Shivakumar said: “The Election Commission may notify the poll dates at any time during the six months period before the expiry of the term of Assembly. In an event, BJP MLA Jarkiholi has said that the BJP would pay ₹6,000 per vote to every voter in ensuing Assembly polls.”

“This is part of a concerted conspiracy hatched at the highest levels in the BJP with the tacit approval of the CM Bommai and national and state party heads. There are about five crores voters in the state and the BJP is hatching a conspiracy to woo the voters by distributing ₹30,000 crore to win the polls.”

“This displays that BJP leaders have got ill-gotten wealth of more than ₹30,000 crore to bribe the voters and to hijack the polls. This is also a fit and appropriate case where a full investigation by the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate can be initiated against the central and state leaders of BJP,” Shivakumar said.

Responding to the allegations, former minister Jarkiholi said: “Congress is making allegations that I would spend ₹10 crore in Belagavi Rural Assembly segment (represented by Congress MLA Lakshmi Hebbalkar) and lured voters of promising ₹6,000 per voter to vote for BJP.”

“I have not lured any voters. I have not even announced the candidate of this constituency. There is no election code of conduct in place. In an exaggeration, I might have said that I would give money,” added Jarkiholi.

He had also said that Congress is also luring the voters with promises of free electricity, ₹2,000 for every woman, ahead of the Assembly polls.