PM Narendra Modi recently accused Congress in Karnataka as being corrupt, but BJP is no better, if not worse.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a habit: he praises chief ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party to the skies and in other States, he ruffles their feathers and rakes up a controversy. He recently praised Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh even when the State was bleeding due to the violence unleashed by extreme Hindu groups or when hundreds of kids died in government hospitals due to lack of facilities; but in Karnataka, the same Modi slammed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah despite the State doing far better than UP and other State in various indices.
In a rather frontal attack on the Congress-ruled Karnataka this week, Modi described the Siddaramaiah administration was a “10% commission government”. It is a known fact to the public that the Congress government takes commission for every contract. Just a few months back the Siddaramaiah government came up with an absurd plan to build a steel bridge from a major junction in Bengaluru to the Kempagowda International Airport at a huge cost running into crores. Everyone, except poor Siddaramaiah and his cabinet colleagues, knew that the bridge was planned to get a huge commission to partly fund the high command for the 2019 elections.
After a huge hue and cry from citizens and environmentalists who pointed out that a steel bridge is only a `commission bridge’ and will be an eyesore in the Garden City, Siddaramaiah reluctantly dropped the plan.
The Congress government has also not spent huge sums of allocated funds for various projects. This despite Siddaramaiah, who also handles the finance portfolio, having earmarked the funds. Many say the funds are stuck as there is a dispute with contractors over percentage of commission. Siddaramaiah is also known to sleep over promises, projects and at public functions.
Over 60 per cent of the funds for major projects like roads, canals, health etc have not been spent. And all this has now lapsed and the projects that may have made life easier for the public are stuck.
Modi may have a point in accusing the Siddaramaiah government as a commission agent. But if one looks back at history, Karnataka politicians had always thrived on commissions – right from Bangarappa onwards who had to quit his post as Chief Minister due to a kickback scam. The joke in Bengaluru and more so in Vidhana Soudha is that nothing moves without the help of Mahatma Gandhi – the father of the nation who smiles from Rs 2000 and other denomination currency notes.
But Bangarappa was a Congress man of yore. Modi’s man and the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa himself is known for pocketing huge commissions, making Siddaramaiah look like an honest man. Unlike Siddaramaiah, Yeddyurappa had made it a family business with his sons and sons in law acting as commission agents and wheeler dealers.
The family `business concern’ of Yeddyurappa had floated various so called charitable organisations to which huge `donations’ were made. In turn, those who made the donations got anything they demanded – from mining licence to land conversion.
It is for this that Yeddyruappa had to face the ignominy of going to jail. By that yardstick, Siddaramaiah seems to be better. Though he is alleged to have pocketed commissions, he has not been found guilty or gone to jail. Moreover, he does not run a family `business concern’ like the way Yeddyurappa does.
Modi had pompously told a huge crowd of his supporters in Bengaluru recently that “some people told me that the Congress government in Karnataka is a 10% government.” But did the Prime Minister not hear anything that is being said of Yeddyurappa? If not that is strange, but he must have known but preferred to pay a deaf ear.
Substantiating his charge against the Karnataka government, Modi said the income tax department had raided a senior Congress leader and two ministers in Bengaluru where the administration was dominated by the sand mafia, transfer mafia and builder mafia.
“Here a naked dance of scams and mafia is happening,” he alleged.
But here too Modi is on a weak wicket. During the BJP regime, the stink of corruption and scams came from the mining town of Bellari. There were charges that the entire BJP highcommand was funded by the mining mafia of Bellari. They were not just charges but Janardhana Reddy, a mining don and a minister in the then BJP government, had to be jailed. He is still facing charges of corruption, black money and cheating the ex-chequer to the tune of crores.
Thumbing his nose at the income tax authorities, Reddy shamelessly burnt around Rs 200 crores on his daughter’s wedding. If this is not naked dance of a scam, what is?
The Congress in Karnataka may be corrupt, but the BJP is no better if not a big brother of corruption. This is why the people in Karnataka support Modi, but not Yeddyurappa and his bunch of corrupt men. When it comes to choosing between two thieves, the electorate may back the Congress, not the BJP.
But Modi feels that the solution for the State is to make “Congress Mukt Karnataka”. “If Karnataka is freed from Congress, it will also mean putting an end to dynasty rule, appeasement politics and corruption,” he added.
But look at the BJP. Yeddyurappa practices dynasty politics. His son is an MP and a pretender to the throne. Yeddyurappa is also known for appeasement politics as he never loses an opportunity to lunch or dine with Dalits hoping that they vote for the BJP. If such hugely publicised lunch and dinners are not appeasement politics, what is?
Stinking corruption, shameless appeasement politics and mega scams are `a way of life in Karnataka’ and well known. But what the people of Karnataka wanted to hear from Modi was a solution to the vexatious Mahayadi river water sharing from BJP-ruled Goa. But Modi preferred to remain silent on the issue while he addressed a rally in Bengaluru recently. This has come as a huge disappointment and shock.
He was expected to make a special mention of the inter-state Mahadayi water dispute issue, but not a word came from him. “We will solve every small problem you face,” Modi said. That left Karnataka high and dry about the river water sharing which is not a small problem, but a major one that is agitating the minds of people in North Karnataka.
The Congress was quick to turn the tables against Modi and the BJP by saying that the saffron brigade is a Delhi-centric party and has no heart for the people of Karnataka. There is only a `river’ of promises but nothing on the ground.
No wonder that the farmers from Mumbai-Karnataka region, who had hoped to hear Modi speak on Mahadayi, looked frustrated after the PM left. Moreover, as Modi touched upon irrigation schemes and farmers’ suicides, it was expected that he would refer to Mahadayi. However, most part of his address focused on attacking the Congress.
This one issue may go against the BJP in north Karnataka when it comes to elections to the Assembly in April-May this year.
Siddaramaiah was quick to rub it in when he took a jibe at Modi. “Narendra Modi, I am glad you are making time to visit the country’s startup & innovation hub, Namma Bengaluru. On behalf of my people, I urge you to find the time for Karnataka’s drinking water needs and help us resolve the Mahadayi dispute #NammaKarnatakaFirst,” the CM had tweeted.
“Welcome to Karnataka. You may be the son of Gujarat but you are PM of the entire country. I hope you will address the long-pending Mahadayi issue and intervene. This at least will bring some good news for the farmers of North Karnataka,” JD(S) president H D Kumaraswamy said.
Siddaramaiah also accused Modi of disgracing his position by misleading the people of Karnataka with a bundle of lies, and rebutted the “10% commission government” allegations, saying elections should be fought with dignity and based on facts.
Modi and the BJP had to face an embarrassing situation just a day after the Prime Minister’s frontal attack on the Siddaramaiah government.
Barely 24 hours after the PM left, governor Vajubhai R Vala praised the Siddaramaiah regime for its fight on corruption, the way it has dealt with communal violence and the overall development of the state.
Addressing a joint session of the state legislature, the last before the assembly elections scheduled in May, Vala said the Karnataka government had taken effective steps to maintain law and order and had dealt firmly with sporadic incidents of communal violence in the state.
Hailing the government’s war on corruption, the governor said it had set up the Anti-Corruption Bureau and appointed a new Lokayukta. “My government continues to fight corruption in public services,” he stated.
Siddaramaiah and the Congress are upbeat and have successfully turned the tides against the deeply divided BJP. A chief ministerial candidate who has deeply entrenched stains of corruption, infighting in the saffron brigade and the BJP’s silence on the Mahayadi river water sharing would seriously dent the chances of the BJP coming back to power in Karnataka.