With the Opposition refusing to allow the Assembly to function for the second consecurtive day over his ‘expensive’ watch, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday handed over the Hublot watch to Speaker Kagodu Thimappa and asked him to place it in the government’s cabinet hall as a state asset.
The chief minister’s move came as BJP MLAs, led by former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, continued to protest in the House, seeking an adjournment motion to discuss the issue.
The BJP has been demanding a probe, alleging that Siddaramaiah has violated provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by accepting, what he has claimed to be, a gift from a doctor friend in Dubai. The JD(S), which did not take part in the protest in the Assembly, had earlier sought a CBI probe into the “origins of the watch”, and had claimed that it could be stolen property.
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While handing over the watch, valued at around Rs 14 lakh, Siddaramaiah also gave a letter to the Speaker in which he said: “I, being a law abiding citizen, have paid the tax on the said gifted watch as advance tax on this day of March 2, 2016.”
By handing over the watch to the Speaker, Siddaramaiah said, he was following in the footsteps of his predecessors like S Nijalingappa and Deveraj Urs who had declared their wrist watches, received as gifts, as state assets.
“The Opposition has no other issue and so it is raising this issue. My life is an open book and I have never been involved in corruption. I do not need to learn any lessons from the Opposition whose record everybody knows about,’’ Siddaramaiah said.
According to the CM, the Hublot Big Bang 301 M wrist watch was presented to him by a friend, Dr Girish Chandra Varma, in Bengaluru last year.
“The said Dr Girish Chandra Varma is a Non-Resident Indian based in Dubai. He has no official dealings with the government of Karnataka or its organisations,’’ Siddaramaiah stated in his letter to the Speaker.
Though the BJP urged the Speaker not to accept the watch without the chief minister providing adequate details like its product number and purchase details, the Speaker accepted the watch and handed it to the Chief Secretary to place in the cabinet hall of the Vidhana Soudha.