Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka continues to face corruption allegations. Days after a contractor based in the state’s Belagavi district, Santosh Patil, died of suspected suicide, after accusing senior BJP leader K.S. Eshwarappa of corruption, a Hindu seer Sunday accused the government and its officials of demanding bribes and commission money.
The seer’s allegations came the same day that officers of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) raided properties belonging to a former BJP’s women’s wing district president in Kalburgi, in connection with an alleged police recruitment scam, and BJP national president J.P. Nadda was chairing the state executive meeting in Hospete.
On Sunday, Dingaleshwara Swami of Gadag’s historical Fakireshwara Mutt alleged that even religious institutions in the state have to give up 30 per cent of funds released to them in bribes.
“I know this too well. If funds are released to a mutt, by the time it reaches the seer 30 per cent of it is already gone. Officials tell me the works won’t be completed if a specific amount of money is not given to them. This is the extent corruption has come to,” Dingaleshwara Swami claimed, as part of his speech.
The Lingayat seer of the 400 years old religious institution — which has been a beacon of religious harmony in Gadag — was speaking at the ‘Krishna-Mahadayi-Navali Sankalpa Yatra’ led by Congress leader S.R. Patil and farmers’ associations, for implementation of irrigation projects in North Karnataka.
Citing an example of how everybody along the chain of command eats into the funds, the seer claimed, “If an ice cream is given in Bengaluru, by the time it reaches us all that is left of it is the stick.”
The allegations made by Dingaleshwara Swami gave the Congress, which has already been criticising the BJP for the allegations of corruption brought in against its leaders, further ammunition.
“Its shameful that BJP which claims to protect religion is eating into 30% of funds allocated to mutts and temples. Why the discount of 10%? (It’s been alleged contractors have to pay a 40 per cent commission, thus the barb. ) Why not gobble that up too? What kind of protectors seek commission from Gods too,” Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, Siddaramaiah, asked on social media Monday.
Responding to the seer’s allegations, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters late Monday, “Dingaleshwara Swamiji is a revered seer, a Mahatma… It is not enough if the head of a mutt just issues a statement. If he could provide details as to who demanded the commission, to whom it was paid, how much was paid and all the related details then I will ensure a thorough investigation.”
Allegations against Eshwarappa
The seer’s allegations are only the latest in a spate of graft accusations levelled against CM Basavaraj Bommai’s government in the past few weeks.
The Congress in Karnataka had already raised questions over the suspected suicide of contractor and Hindu Vahini worker, Santosh Patil, earlier this month.
In a WhatsApp message, purported to be his suicide note, Patil had blamed Eshwarappa for his death.
Weeks before his death, the contractor had also complained to Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh and BJP’s central leaders that he was yet to be paid Rs 4 crore for road works undertaken in Hindalga village and had accused Eshwarappa’s aides of demanding 40 per cent commission for the release of the payment.
The allegations prompted Eshwarappa’s resignation from the Bommai government last week.
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‘BJP leader, minister common link in every scam’
Dingaleshwara Swami’s allegations came on the very day that CID officers raided properties belonging to a former BJP’s women’s wing district president, in connection with the alleged police recruitment scam.
After receiving severe flak for alleged largescale scam in the conducting of entrance examinations for the rank of police sub-inspector, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra last week ordered a CID inquiry into the allegations. On Sunday, officials of the CID raided the residence of Divya Hagaragi, former district president of BJP’s women’s wing in Kalburgi. Hagaragi has since been absconding. Her husband Rajesh has been arrested by the CID in connection with the scam. An education institution owned by Hagaragi, Gyan Jothi Educational Institution, is suspected to be at the centre of the alleged recruitment scam.
The CID is investigating the case after a candidate — who wrote the exam at Hagaragi’s institution — secured 100 marks despite allegedly attempting questions for only 21 marks. In the FIR registered, CID officials stated that the marks of few aspirants seemed to have been forged.
Some 52,000 aspirants had appeared for the exams held in October last year to fill vacancies across 545 PSI posts. At least seven people have been arrested so far in the case, including four candidates who passed the exam and three invigilators. Even as the BJP attempted to distance itself from Hagaragi, insisting that she wasn’t a party member, Chief Minister Bommai said Monday that whoever is involved in the alleged scam will be prosecuted.
“A comprehensive investigation has been ordered to find out whether the irregularities had happened at any particular centres or at a larger scale. If it were to be a government of some other political party they would have tried to cover it up. We have given a free hand to CID. We will take action against those involved, whoever it is,” Bommai said Monday.
The Congress has, however, pointed to Hagaragi’s proximity to Home Minister Araga Jnanendra.
“Bommai Govt should be renamed as “Scam Govt” ! A BJP Leader & a Minister connection is the common link in every scam. Future of over 70,000 Youth candidates in Police Sub Inspector Exam openly sold to ‘Paper Mafia’. Still, Home Minister had “breakfast” at accused’s home!,” alleged Randeep Surjewala, AICC General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka, Monday.
Responding to Congress’ allegations, and photos of his recent visit to Hagaragi’s residence shared by Congress social media pages, Jnanendra told reporters Tuesday, “We are in public life and we meet hundreds of people. We cannot seek a certificate from everyone we meet to check if they are good or bad people.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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