Despite CRITICISM from several quarters, including senior Congress leaders, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his son Dr Yathindra Siddaramaiah are yet to take any step to address allegations of conflict of interest against them. The allegations cropped up after diagnostics firm Matrix Imaging Solutions Pvt Ltd bagged three contracts to set up labs at state government hospitals after Yathindra became its director in September 2014.
The firm has made investments worth nearly Rs 10 crore to launch diagnostic facilities at Bangalore Medical College Research Institute and Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiological Science and Research hospitals at Kalaburagi and Mysore.
While some senior Congress leaders have advised Siddaramaiah to get his son to quit his position in the firm, others have asked him to cancel the contracts awarded to the firm. However, a section of Congress leaders, including several of Siddaramaiah’s cabinet colleagues and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, have backed the CM, claiming that no laws were violated in granting the contracts.
Kharge has said the allegations were an attempt to defame the Congress government. “The CM has explained his position. His son has said that if it is illegal, he does not want to be part of it. Such things must not be blown up to defame the government and Congress,’’ he said.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who is in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka, on Friday said that he had advised Siddaramaiah to ask his son to step down from the director’s post.
“I have only advised that he withdraws… Legally, the son does not have to quit. As a (matter of) propriety, he may,” Singh said.
Congress leader Janardhan Poojary, however, has called for the CM to cancel the contract awarded to the firm to set up a lab at BMCRI hospital.
“According to the code of conduct, a CM or his close relatives cannot have an agreement with any government department while he is in power. I want to ask Siddaramaiah, is it right to sign this contract?,” Poojary said. “He (Siddaramaiah) has assumed there is no one to question you in the party. This has brought shame to so many party workers.”
Revenue Minister V Sreenivas Prasad, who has recently been at loggerheads with the CM, said this controversy, which comes just after a row over an expensive watch worn by Siddaramaiah, had put the government in a difficult position.
Former Union minister from Congress K H Muniyappa said, “I don’t know the details, but people in power can escape such allegations by keeping close ones away. Yeddyurappa faced similar charges in the past.” But Health Minister U T Khader said there was “no irregularity” in awarding the contracts.
State BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit has CM in 2011 after being accused of corruption, alleged that Siddaramaiah had misused his office. “It is a big offence and legal action has to be initiated,’’ he said.