In yet another embarrassment to the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government in Karnataka, the party’s Hosadurga MLA Goolihatti Shekhar has alleged irregularities and lack of transparency in the tender process for various boards — including the Visvesvaraya Jala Nigam Limited (VJNL) in the Department of Water Resources.
Ahead of the April-May Karnataka assembly polls, the BJP MLA has levelled corruption allegations in the Upper Bhadra Project (UBP).
This has turned out to be a weapon for the Opposition parties, mainly the Congress, to attack the ruling BJP government in the state.
In a one-page letter addressed to the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on Friday, 3 February, Shekhar demanded that the state government revoke tender work orders worth ₹22,200 crore in the Upper Bhadra Project, citing lack of transparency and irregularities.
“There are loopholes in the tender process in the works of the implementation of drip irrigation system and filling water tanks through a pipeline under the various schemes of the UBP in Hosadurga, Jagaluru, Kadur, and other talukas,” alleged the BJP MLA.
“I urge the authorities to immediately revoke the tender work orders as the work orders have been issued after the authorities were lured and pressured. It is illegal. The government has to re-invite the tender and should order to display transparency in the works,” appealed Shekhar.
He further said: “In the following boards of the water resources department: Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited (KBJNL), Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited (KNNL), VJNL and others – the authorities have illegally altered the proceedings and issued the tender orders worth ₹18,000 crore.”
Shekhar also said: “In VJNL also the work orders worth Rs 4,200 crore have been issued illegally. Even the rules have been violated while issuing tender orders. The work orders for the projects worth thousands of crores have been issued within seven days of inviting tender. The transparency was not maintained in this tender process.”
Shekhar levelled some more serious allegations against the water resources department.
“Substandard works are being carried out in the pipeline laying work in the water tank filling project. The government has to consider all the above allegations and for other reasons has to cancel the existing tender work order and re-invite the tenders,” he urged.
Will order probe: Karjol
Karnataka’s Minister for Water Resources Govind Karjol refuted the allegations levelled by his own party’s MLA.
Karjol told South First: “It has been brought to my notice. I will make it clear that if Shekhar provides proper evidence and information, I will order an inquiry.”
He also said: “These allegations are baseless because the department will maintain transparency during the tender process, irrespective of the budget size of the project. Ever since the Basavaraj Bommai government came to power, we have appointed a committee to scrutinise the tender process. How could irregularity have happened?”
He pointed out: “The government-appointed committee will scrutinise the estimation and technical and other works related to the project. Then the tender will be issued by following the legal process.”
Karjol told South First: “It is impossible to clear the tender of the projects worth thousands of crores in a single day. The board has to follow all the norms while inviting tenders. However, if the Hosadurga MLA submits relevant evidence, the government is ready to launch an inquiry into this.”
When South First contacted the Additional Chief Secretary Rakesh Singh over the phone, he refrained from commenting on this matter.
Congress hits out at BJP
With barely two months left for the Karnataka Assembly polls, a BJP legislator levelling corruption allegations against his own government was a godsend of sorts for the Congress.
In a tweet, Congress asked the Minister Karjol that how much cut he has taken in this illegal tender?
ಭದ್ರಾ ಮೇಲ್ದಂಡೆ ಯೋಜನೆಯ ಗುತ್ತಿಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅಕ್ರಮವೆಸಗಲಾಗಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಸ್ವತಃ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಶಾಸಕರೇ ದನಿ ಎತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರೆ.
40% ಕಮಿಷನ್ ಲೂಟಿಗೆ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಶಾಸಕರೇ ಪುರಾವೆ ಒದಗಿಸಿರುವಾಗ ಇನ್ಯಾವ ಸಾಕ್ಷಿ ಬೇಕು @BSBommai ಅವರೇ?
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) February 4, 2023
“BJP MLAs themselves have raised the issue of illegality in the tender process of the Upper Bhadra Project. When BJP MLAs themselves have provided evidence of 40 percent commission loot, what more evidence is needed for the Bommai government?” tweeted Karnataka Congress.
KPCC Campaign Committee chairman and Bableshwar MLA MB Patil, who himself was once the state’s water resource minister, told South First: “I am yet to go through the letter. I will comment later on the matter.”
The Upper Bhadra Project
The Upper Bhadra Project is aimed at bringing water to 2.26 lakh hectares by micro-irrigation in the drought-prone districts of Chikkamagaluru, Chitradurga, Tumakuru, and Davangere.
In the first stage of the project, 17.40 tmcft of water is expected to be lifted from the river Tunga to the Bhadra reservoir as part of the lift irrigation scheme.
The second stage will apparently see the lifting of 29.9 tmcft of water from the Bhadra reservoir to the tunnel near Ajjampura, in the Tungabhadra sub-basin.
The total estimated project cost stands at ₹21,471 crore. The Union government is expected to contribute ₹9,675.29 crore of the total estimated expenditure.