Highlighting ‘40% commission’ charge, Karnataka State Contractors’ Association appeals to people to ‘vote with their conscience’

The association's president, Kempanna, said democracy works when people cast their vote in accordance with their conscience.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 09, 2023 | 8:59 PMUpdatedMay 11, 2023 | 2:50 PM

PayCM posters pasted by Congress across Bengaluru

With Karnataka going to the poll booths in a few hours, the incumbent BJP dispensation is receiving taunts for being allegedly a corrupt regime — the “40 percent commission government” — due to its alleged policy of taking a “commission” for all government projects.

The Karnataka State Contractors’ Association (KSCA) – which first raised the charges of corruption- has appealed to the people to cast their vote in accordance with their conscience.

It told the people that “corruption had reached frightening levels in the state” that votes on Wednesday, 10 May.

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Letter to PM Modi

KSCA President D Kempanna had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that contractors had to shell out 40 percent commission in public projects, a charge which the Congress made a key campaign issue to target the ruling BJP in Karnataka and the incumbent BJP has repeatedly denied.

On Tuesday, Kempanna said corruption had reached frightening levels in the state.

“The 40 percent commission in public projects has already claimed the lives of several contractors; the public, too, is forced to live with defective, dangerous, and life-threatening infrastructure,” he said.

Kempanna said democracy works when people cast their vote in accordance with their conscience.

“Corruption deeply hurts our collective conscience,” he added.

Sharing the letter, which Kempanna confirmed was written by him, on its Twitter handle, the Congress in Karnataka said, “This letter from the Karnataka State Contractors Association, urging people to vote wisely, is proof of how the corrupt 40 percent commission government has ruined the state of Karnataka.”

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Agitations, suicide and more

In January this year, after accusing the BJP government in Karnataka of corruption for months, the state’s government contractors staged a massive protest against “commission demands” at Freedom Park in Bengaluru.

“Corruption at governmental departments existed earlier as well; however, it was tolerable. Earlier, we had to part with a 10 percent commission of the awarded project cost. But over the past one and a half years, this 10 percent has seen an abnormal growth to 40 percent now,” said R Manjunath, working president of the KSCA.

The issue of the 40 percent commission hit the limelight when Santosh Patil, a contractor and office-bearer of the youth religious group Hindu Vahini, died by suicide at a lodge in Udupi on 12 April, 2022, after levelling allegations of corruption against BJP leader KS Eshwarappa.

Starting in March last year, Patil made several statements regarding the harassment he had to face from Eshwarappa regarding the “commission” that he had to pay.

The Udupi Town police booked Eshwarappa — along with his aides Basavaraj and Ramesh, among others — for abetment to suicide, and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed to probe the case.

However, the SIT ended up filing a closure report for lack of evidence, allegedly due to political pressure.

Patil’s family then approached a Bengaluru court questioning the closure report by the SIT.

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The PayCM campaign

Subsequently, the Congress in Karnataka launched the “PayCM” campaign, posting QR codes across Bengaluru which said “PayCM”, “40% Accepted Here”, and “Scan this QR Code to make the CM PAY for corruption”.

Scanning QR codes on UPI payment platforms like PayTM or Google Pay usually lands one on a transaction page.

However, in the PayCM campaign, scanning the QR code on the posters would take the user to a website launched by the Congress to highlight allegations of corruption against the Basavaraj Bommai government.

A message on the poster reads “40% accepted here” and asks the reader to scan this QR code to make the “CM pay” for corruption. These were accompanied by a toll-free phone number — 844-770-40-40 — set up by the Congress to “register complaints of corruption”.

In October, in a letter to President Droupadi Murmu, a government contractor from Hubballi sought “mercy killing”, or permission to end his life.

The 34-year-old contractor from Hubballi, Basavaraj Amaragol, in a letter dated 20 October, accused the state government of refusing to pay him for over two years for works he had undertaken.

In his plea for “mercy killing”, Amaragol alleged that bills worth ₹61 lakh were still pending, rendering him penniless to pay rent, loan EMIs, and other liabilities.

Meanwhile, the South First-Peoples Pulse pre-poll survey conducted in April this year found that corruption allegations against the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government in the state featured among the top four issues in this election.

(With PTI inputs)