The shoe of corruption is now on the other foot in Karnataka.
A contractors’ body which had alleged that 40% commission had to be paid to get contracts for public projects under the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government has levelled the same allegation at the Congress government which came to power last year, but with a twist. The association has said that instead of politicians making money, it is bureaucrats who are doing so now.
While the BJP has used the opportunity to attack the Congress, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said the contractors’ body must present proof.
The association’s allegations in 2022 had led to the Congress terming the BJP regime in the state a ‘40% sarkara’ (40% government). The party also launched a ‘PayCM’ campaign with a QR code leading to a ‘40% sarkara’ website, which alleged that the BJP government was charging 40% commission on public projects.
The allegations had played a key role in the Congress storming back to power in Karnataka in May last year, winning 135 of 224 Assembly seats. The claims against the Congress government have come just weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
D Kempanna, President, Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, who had complained about corruption in the BJP government, said, “I don’t think corruption has come down. Now, officials are making money. Earlier, politicians were.”
Other members of the association alleged that officials don’t issue work orders or release money unless bribes are paid and also claimed that “package deals” are awarded to agencies close to the bureaucrats, ignoring local contractors.
Reacting to the allegations, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked Mr Kempanna to approach Justice Nagamohan Das Commission if he has documents to prove corruption.
“We constituted the Justice Nagamohan Das Commission to probe ’40 per cent commission’ that happened in the previous (BJP) government. If he has documents then he must share them,” Siddaramaiah said, according to news agency PTI.
Karnataka Industries Minister MB Patil said, “Let him (Mr Kempanna) state the departments… present facts against Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (Bengaluru municipal corporation) or the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board… and not make general statements. If there is anything, the chief minister will inquire into it.”
The BJP, on the other hand, said the “real corruption” has now been exposed.
“The Congress party made false allegations against our government. Now, the real corruption is happening in the Congress government. Now the same contractors, who are hand-in-glove with the Congress government, are feeling the heat and facing the music,” said BJP MLA CN Ashwath Narayan.
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