Government, Opposition flex muscles for bare-dare debate

Scams: Special Legislature Session


Illustration: Yathi Siddakatte

Now the stage is set for the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress as well as the JD (S) to speak extensively on scams in the legislature. While Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa is ready to recall the scams and irregularities committed by leaders spanning over three decades, the Opposition is keen on only 'exposing' the 'misdeeds' of the BJP government in the state. Assembly Speaker Jagadeesh Shettar has said the agenda for the special legislature session will be decided by the business advisory committee, which is meeting on September 9.

It was Yeddyurappa who volunteered to convene a special five-day session-two days to discuss scams and three days to debate on agriculture and rural development. The Opposition parties had welcomed his announcement. However, the scams is not figuring on the agenda of the legislature. Still he is arming himself to take on the Opposition in case any new scams are raised. But, it appears that the government may defend itself rather than countering the Opposition.
On the direction by the CM, the Information department has prepared a list of scams which came to light from 1980 onwards. A team of officials was put on the job to scan the newspaper clippings for nearly a month to prepare the list. Even college students were roped in for the work.

Deccan Herald too glanced through its files to recall the scams the State witnessed over the years. It was observed that hardly a handful of scams have seen logical end. In most of the cases, the guilty/culprits have not been handed out any punishment. But the exceptions are cases like the stamp paper scam. But one thing is obvious. In the past, politicians who held high positions did feel embarrassed to continue in power when they were caught in a scam. There are instances when ministers and the CM had quit the office on moral grounds. That is a rarity now.
Political history also shows the there were many scams during the Devaraj Urs regime. In the 1980s, Ramakrishna Hegde as the CM used to make lofty speeches on value-based politics.

Ironically, he had to resign twice---over the telephone tapping scam and the arrack bottling contract scam. But in the last two decades there are hardly any cases of a politician resigning either on moral grounds or dent of image in public.
Also, nowadays scams or irregularities are of large-scale involving either large tracts of land or crores of rupees. The recent scam that rocked the Assembly was the KHB land scam.

The Opposition exposed how the KHB had bought the land in Chikkaballapur from a brother of Krishnaiah Setty, who was the housing minister when the purchase was made. In fact, the CM had defended the land purchase while the Opposition alleged nepotism by Setty. The multi-crore scams like rice diversion and government land grabbing have faded from the public memory.
But politicians know how to cash in on any scam when it is advantageous for them.

A glance at scams that hit the headlines in the yesteryears.

1. In 1953, industries minister T Siddalingaiah resigned as there were allegations that his department had purchased copper wire from his relatives. The Centre had appointed K V K Sundaram, the then deputy election commissioner to probe into the incident. Siddalingaiah was not indicted but still he resigned on moral grounds.

2. Another minister who quit the post owning moral responsibility was M V Ramarao, who was the home minister in the 1960s. There were allegations of police excess on protesters in Madhugiri. The then district judge D Noronha was asked to hold an inquiry into the incident. Ramarao quit the post though he was not guilty.

3. During 1972-78, Devaraj Urs was the CM & HD Deve Gowda was the leader of the Opposition. Urs faced many allegations including land allotment to his people. In 1977 Morarji Desai became the PM. Following complaints by Deve Gowda, the PM had set up the Justice A N Grover Commission to hold an inquiry into charges against Urs. The report was submitted to the State Government in 1978. In the 1978 general elections, the people’s verdict went in favour of Urs.

5. In 1980, C M Ibrahim was a minister in the R Gundu Rao cabinet. The minister was caught in controversies for allegedly giving licence for opening flour mills, and also for getting a Rolex watch as a gift from a Saudi national. A K Subbaiah exposed it. Ibrahim stepped down as minister.

6. In 1985, when Ramakrishna Hegde was the CM, he was embroiled in telephone tapping controversy, the arrack bottling licence scandal, the Revajeetu and NRI land allotment scandals besides the medical seat allotment scandal. Hegde admitted the snooping techniques and resigned on moral grounds only to withdraw it due to pressure from his colleagues.
Following Deve Gowda’s complaints in 1989, the then PM VP Singh had set up the Justice Kuldip Singh Commission to conduct an inquiry against Hegde, who was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. Hegde was charged and later he resigned.

7. In 1985-86, Deve Gowda as minister was caught in a controversy for allotting sites to his supporters in Mysore. The matter was referred to Lokayukta as well as CoD. There were no sufficient evidence to nail him.

Rice Scam
Period: Unearthed in May, 2004 hen SM Krishna was the Chief minister
Billed as one of the biggest scams of Karnataka involving public money.
The Centre, under the Sampoorna Grameena Rozgar Yojana had allotted 14.5 lakh tons of rice to the State.
It was meant to be distributed among those who work under the food-for-work programme in drought-hit areas.
It was alleged that officials diverted 22,000 tons of rice for export. The major diversion was from Hassan. The CoD conducted the probe. Many officials and several rice mill owners were arrested. The scam resulted in loss of work to the poor. The state could not lift two lakh tons of rice from godowns.
Status: The CoD completed its inquiry and  filed the report to Mangalore court which was rejected. One more committee is probing into it.

Mining scam
Period: Raked up during the JD(S)-BJP regime in 2006.
Janardhan Reddy, BJP MLC and mining tycoon of Bellary accused the then CM Kumaraswamy of accepting a bribe of Rs 150 crore from mine owners to show official favours.
Reddy began hurling charges against HDK, his family members as well as the then forest minister C Chennigappa over bribe. Reddy invited media to Bellary to show the videos to ‘expose’ HDK.
But it turned out to be a big flop show following poor quality of video and audio recording of the so-called sting operation by Reddy. The Justice UL Bhat Commission was set up to hold an inquiry into the alleged irregularities in mining. Bhat resigned and the the matter was transferred to the Lokayukta.
Status: The Lokayukta has filed its interim report to the government. The terms of reference of the inquiry did not include probing into the corruption charges.
Reddy has moved the Supreme Court over the
issue.

Land scam
Period: Between 2004-2008
Encroachment of government land in Bangalore and elsewhere in the State is the biggest scam in terms of land involvement. In 2006 March, in the legislature Mukhyamantri Chandru and Sreerama Reddy raised the land encroachment issue. A joint house committee headed by the then MLA A T Ramaswamy was constituted to probe into it.
The committee has submitted two reports and the final report is awaited. The panel found not less than 41,00 acres of land encroached upon in Bangalore the value of which is about Rs 27,000 crore. The report said that several government officials had colluded with land grabbers.
The committee’s recommendation to the government to set up a court for speedy trial of the encroachments cases has not yet been implemented. 
Status: Of the 41,000 acres identified by the committee, so far 9,000 acres have been recovered and a part of it has been auctioned.

Stamp paper scam
Period: 2000; SM KRishna was the Chief minister
Abdul Karim Telgi, a fruit vendor of Khanapur, rose to adorn the title of kingpin of a multi-million crore stamp paper scam involving high-profile people.
He had developed a network across the country for printing fake stamp papers.
This was unearthed by a businessman based in Khanapur, Telgi’s home-town.
The SM Krishna government constituted StampIT headed by IPS officer R Srikumar, in January 2002 to investigate into the scam.
The team arrested many including Rehan Baig, brother of the then minister Roshan Baig. The minister resigned
following demand by the Opposition parties. The CBI is probing into it. 
Status: Telgi is behind the bars. He is facing charges filed in various courts.

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