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TalkPoint: Ballari mining scam ‘clean chit’- political expediency or not enough evidence?

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November last year, three CBI state branches dropped the investigation into the alleged Rs 16,500 crore Ballari mining scam.

The BJP has now given tickets to the family members and aides of the prime accused in the case, G. Janardhan Reddy, including his brothers Somashekar and Karunakar, as well as his confidant B. Sriramulu.

ThePrint asks: Ballari mining scam ‘clean chit’ — political expediency or not enough evidence?

Congress, BJP and CBI are all bent on putting the illegal mining report into cold storage

Santosh Hegde
Former Lokayukta, Karnataka

I submitted my mining report in July 2011 which contained the names of two former chief ministers and one serving. B.S. Yeddyurappa, the then CM of Karnataka, was forced to resign in its aftermath.

He has subsequently been acquitted. No appeal was filed by the state to challenge this. Other than him, there was also G. Janardhan Reddy, another minister. He is now actively campaigning for the BJP in Karnataka. Over and above that, his family members and confidantes have been given tickets to contest polls.

That’s about the BJP.

The opposition leader from the Congress who raised the biggest hue and cry about the mining report is now the chief minister of Karnataka. He used a report by the Lokayukta to come to power and proceeded to reduce its powers. He took away the power of grievance redressal and handed the anti-corruption mandate to the ACB (anti-corruption bureau). Now he says if he’s re-elected, he will empower the Lokayukta again. Isn’t that ironic?

There are currently two people in his party who were named in the illegal mining report. Arun Singh is one of them.

That’s about the Congress.

Now let’s talk about the CBI. They have cited flimsy reasons like not being provided required documents from the government as a reason to file a b-report (filed when no case is made). The CBI has the power to compel the governments to provide them with the documents. Clearly they aren’t interested in ending this illegal mining scam either.

Both the political parties and even the CBI aren’t interested in prosecuting anyone at all. They are bent on putting the illegal mining report into the cold storage.

All these actors seem to be concerned about is canvassing for votes and returning to power, one way or the other.

BJP is desperate to cobble together the classic collection of crooks and cronies to boost their sorry prospects in Karnataka

Rajeev Gowda
MP, Rajya Sabha, and Chairman, AICC, Research Department

PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are clearly misusing the CBI to absolve the Reddy brothers and others in the illegal mining case on specious and technical grounds. This is a sign of desperation on the part of the BJP to somehow cobble together their classic collection of crooks and cronies to improve their sorry prospects in Karnataka.

The BJP has gone to great lengths, trying every dirty trick, to absolve those accused in the Ballari scam, who were exposed by the former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde.

When you look closely, the CBI’s arguments fall apart completely. In the case of Tamil Nadu, the CBI said that the government of Tamil Nadu never sent them a notice. In Goa, they said that the iron ore from Karnataka and Goa had been mixed, they couldn’t differentiate, and hence there is no case. Thousands of tonnes of iron ore were illegally exported. There is proof of every wrong deed as exposed by Justice Hegde, yet the CBI closes the cases to save the Reddys.

The Reddy family and associates have been given no less than eight tickets to contest elections. That BJP has embraced these crooks is a testament to a well-planned conspiracy to get them out of jail and into the Vidhana Soudha. Even Yeddyurappa has made a statement today that the entire plan to involve the Reddys came from Amit Shah.

The government of Karnataka has withdrawn the cases from a compromised CBI and set up its own special investigation team to probe into these charges. Anyone who is involved in this loot will be exposed. We will ensure that justice is done and that the resources that have been lost are recovered. The people of Karnataka will also ensure justice is done through the ballot box.

It is ironic that Siddaramaiah is critical, he himself dropped mining cases against Anand Singh

Vivek Subba Reddy
National Legal Department, BJP

We should not attempt to understand any case in a vacuum. There are several cases against Janardhan Reddy that are still being investigated by the CBI. They are presently active and he is facing prosecution related to other cases of illegal mining.

In these other cases where investigations are underway, the CBI has filed chargesheet and has enough evidence to prosecute. They have conducted thorough investigations.

As for the Ballari case, the preliminary investigation yielded no evidence and thus, couldn’t proceed further.

It is ironic that Siddaramaiah is attacking the BJP over dropping of cases, when he himself let go of cases against Anand Singh. Right before the code of conduct was released, all the illegal mining cases against Anand Singh vanished into thin air. Why? He joined the Congress.

Moreover, it is the government of India that has filed the appeal before the Supreme Court against the quashing of the Enforcement Directorate proceeding against Reddy by the Karnataka High Court.

It is clear and apparent that we are not compromising law and order or the proceeding of courts. The dropping of cases is done on the basis thorough investigations.

The Ballari case shows investigative agencies like the CBI are in the clutches of the government

Tapal Ganesh
Whistleblower on illegal mining

There was a thorough investigation that was conducted by the Lokayukta at that time, Santosh Hegde, yet the CBI has given a clean chit. There have been documents running into several thousands of pages to show the nexus of the mining lobby, but now the Narendra Modi-led government has decided to ask the CBI to close the case. Isn’t it ridiculous? Does that mean that all the evidence is worthless?

The CBI investigated only the Obalapuram mining company that belonged to the Reddys. There are several other subsidiaries and shell companies that are connected with illegal mining. Why did the CBI not investigate that? Just investigating one company leads them to close the case? It is obvious as to what the reason behind this is. It also shows how the Modi government has not done anything to stop black money in the country.

It is quite clear now that politics is all about saving one another. Be it the BJP or the Congress. They are deceiving people just like the Reddy brothers did. When a man is caught in a robbery case, he is arrested, the case investigated and the property he has robbed is recovered.

The same is the case with illegal mining. The case has all the evidence, documents, it was thoroughly investigated by the Lokayukta and you say that you cannot book them? The investigative agencies like the CBI are in the clutches of the government.

If the Supreme Court could convict Janardhan Reddy based on evidence, what stopped the CBI?

The Congress and the BJP are using this only for political purposes and nothing else. They have found the best strategy to attack each other during the elections, they have no real intention.

The clout of Janardhan Reddy is so immense that even Prakash Javadekar couldn’t stop him from canvassing  

Rohini Swamy
Associate Editor, ThePrint

It is indeed a strategic political game that is being played out when it comes to closing the illegal mining cases. It may appear on the face of it that the BJP has nothing to do with the technicalities of administrative decisions. The technical reasoning has already been demolished by the previous Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, whose report also contained more than adequate evidence.

But the moves of last year appear to be proving to be investments for the present, meaning the current election in Karnataka, and the future, that is, 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The influence that the family and friends of Gali Janardhan Reddy, prime accused in the Rs 16,500 crore the illegal mining scam, wield is evident from the number of times they have re-sold the dream of a ‘beautiful Ballari’ to the voters.

Based on this clout and the ultimate target of next year’s election, the BJP thought it fit to grant party tickets to seven members of the families of the Reddy’s as well as to B. Sriramulu, the ‘moo bola bhai’ of Janardhan Reddy, to contest from eight seats. Sriramulu is contesting from Badami against chief minister Siddaramaiah.

BJP insiders will tell you that the BJP president Amit Shah decided to skip Ballari because he did not want to be seen with the Reddy brothers. But, the fact is also that the Karnataka in-charge and union minister Prakash Javadekar also pointed out his helplessness that the party could not stop Janardhan Reddy from campaigning because he was doing so in his ‘personal capacity’ and not as a party worker. That is the clout of Janardhan Reddy.

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint. 

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