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Explained: What are the kickback allegations against BJP-led Karnataka govt?

🔴 In a letter to PM Modi on July 6, the Karnataka State Contractors Association alleged that contractors are made to pay a bribe of around 25-30% of the tender amount to elected representatives and others before starting work.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP , Edited by Explained Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: December 1, 2021 8:32:16 am
Though CM Basavaraj Bommai has ordered a probe into alleged kickback charges by the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, the Congress has urged the Governor to invoke Article 356 and impose President’s rule in the state. (Photo: Twitter/@BSBommai)

The BJP-led Karnataka government is facing fresh charges of corruption following a letter by state contractors to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has ordered a probe into alleged kickback charges by the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, the Congress has urged the Governor to invoke Article 356 and impose President’s rule in the state.

What are the charges made by the Karnataka contractors’ body?

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 6, the Karnataka State Contractors Association alleged that contractors are made to pay a bribe of around 25-30 per cent of the tender amount to elected representatives and others before starting work.

“The contractors face an unhealthy atmosphere and are discouraged from taking up the works of roads & buildings. They are facing an untoward and ugly situation in getting the tender works in various departments like public works department, minor & major irrigation, panchayat raj engineering, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, health department, etc,” the letter to the PM read.

In the letter, the contractor’s body alleged that the concerned minister “insists and harasses’ payment of 5 per cent on the amount put to tender before approval while a few elected representatives demand 3 per cent of money before starting of works.

Further, the letter states, in district and taluks, there are demands to the extent of 5 per cent on buildings and 10 per cent on road works.

Congress demands President’s rule

A Congress delegation led by senior leaders Siddaramaiah and the party’s state chief D K Shivakumar, meet Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot and urged him to invoke Article 356 and impose President’s rule in the state over “failure of constitutional machinery” and “rampant corruption in the state”.

“There is rampant corruption, maladministration in the state, which has caused loss of several thousand crores to exchequer and the same has been misused by some of the ministers, MLAs, MPs and officials,” the Congress party stated in its petition.

“The Prime Minister has become silent about this rampant corruption amounting to several thousand crores and by not initiating any action on the Government of Karnataka even after lapse of more than four months from the submission of the memorandum by the contractors’ association,” the plea added.

The Congress sought a judicial probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge on the charges levelled by contractors and irregularities unearthed in the Bengaluru development authority.

How has the state govt reacted?

Chief Minister Bommai said that he has asked Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar to conduct a probe into the allegations made by Karnataka State Contractors Association.

The Chief Minister had said, “I don’t know why the contractors wrote to the PM, but I have asked the Chief Secretary to probe all allegations. Heads of departments will scrutinise everything and if there are any culprits, action will be taken. I have asked for a scrutiny of tenders that were finalised after my government took over.”

Saying that the investigation was ordered despite the letter not mentioning any specific case, Bommai asked, “How much more transparent can it get?”

Has there been any change in rules?

Earlier, the Karnataka Cabinet had decided to constitute a committee headed by a retired High Court judge along with two technical experts to approve tenders that are estimated at Rs 50 crore or more.

Under the new rule, no tenders would be invited above Rs 50 crore without clearance by committees. Committees would scrutinise all tender proposals of all departments and only after the scrutiny, the departments would be allowed to float tenders.

Bommai has instructed the Chief Secretary to issue government orders soon for constituting two tender committees headed by a retired judge of the High Court.

How is it affecting the Bommai government?

After Bommai took over from BS Yediyurappa, the alleged bitcoin scam and anti-corruption bureau (ACB) raids on officials from various departments have already created trouble for the saffron party in the state.

“The charges of kickback and bitcoin scam allegations have been affecting the performance of the Bommai-led BJP government in the state. The Chief Minister is under stress due to these allegations,” a source in the BJP in the state told The Indian Express.

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