AUDACITY OF GRAFT
Former chief ministers couldn’t care less about allegations of corruption
P“I am not Harishchandra. I have never claimed to be 100 per cent clean.” H.D. KUMARASWAMY, FORMER CHIEF MINISTER
oliticians in Karnataka are competing, not only in corruption but in who can be more brazen about it. Two former chief ministers, B.S. Yeddyurappa of the
BJP and H.D. Kumaraswamy of Janata Dal (Secular), are outdoing one another in open graft. Yeddyurappa, in jail as an undertrial on two charges of bribery, defiantly said after being indicted by the lokayukta report at the end of July, “I have committed no error. I have only done what my predecessors did.” His immediate predecessor, Kumaraswamy, has no qualms about following suit. He told INDIA TODAY, “I am not Harishchandra. I have never claimed to be 100 per cent clean. No politician today can say that he is living by the dint of his earnings. We all need donations during election time, and it automatically carries obligations.”
A series of cases, revelations, scams and counter-scams have come out in recent times against both the former chief ministers. If Yeddyurappa has been denied bail and put in jail, Kumaraswamy has barely escaped a similar fate but still faces a bigamy case in the Karnataka High Court.
Yeddyurappa’s stand that he has only committed wrongs that the others also have has not earned him censure. Instead, top religious leaders from his community, the Lingayats, the single-
“I have commi
largest caste group in Karnataka, have made a beeline for him, openly admired this stand and thoroughly endorsed it. It has almost turned Yeddyurappa into a hero. Kumaraswamy, who belongs to the second-largest caste, the Vokkaligas, seems to have learnt a lesson from Yeddyurappa. Be it bigamy or allegations of corruption, he admits to all of it and gets away.
The saving grace has been strong judicial activism, but the political battle lines have crept even into the courts as lawyers supporting Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy indulge in a raucous exchange of cases against each other.
IF YEDDYURAPPA HAS BEEN DENIED BAIL AND PUT IN JAIL, KUMARASWAMY HAS BARELY ESCAPED A SIMILAR FATE BUT STILL FACES A BIGAMY CASE IN HIGH COURT.
tted no error. I have only done what my predecessors did.” B.S. YEDDYURAPPA, FORMER CHIEF MINISTER
Yeddyurappa is in jail on corruption charges after supporters of Kumaraswamy filed applications under the Right to Information Act and acquired damning documents against him. Two lawyers known to be Kumaraswamy’s supporters, Siranjan Basha and K.N. Balaraj, filed five cases against Yeddyurappa in the lokayukta court as well as the Karnataka High Court based on documents released earlier. The lokayukta court directed filing of charges against Yeddyurappa and denied him bail, sending him to prison on October 15.
Yeddyurappa’s supporters swung into action. One lawyer, H.R. Vishwanath, filed a case in the Karnataka High Court on the same day that Yeddyurappa was arrested, accusing everyone from BJP stalwart L.K. Advani to Kumaraswamy of vendetta against Yeddyurappa. Another Yeddyurappa supporter, Vinod Kumar, had filed cases of corruption in April, accusing Kumaraswamy and his MLA wife, Anitha, of granting favours to a mining company in lieu of a housing site. A case was also filed against Kumaraswamy’s elder brother H.D. Balakrishne Gowda accusing him of amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 500 crore, resulting in an income tax raid on October 14.
The game also got personal. A bigamy case was filed on October 19 against Kumaraswamy stating that he should be penalised as he was a member of Parliament and had illegally wed actress Radhika despite being married to Anitha. This case is still pending. Kumaraswamy brushed it off, saying, “These things happen in families. It is a personal issue and I will sort it out at that level.”
Yeddyurappa has now dug up a 16year-old case against Kumaraswamy’s father, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. The case relates to engineering contracts issued piecemeal for the Upper Krishna Project to irrigate large tracts of north Karnataka, which Gowda allegedly signed on his last day as chief minister for kickbacks. Karnataka’s Criminal Investigation Department, headed by DGP Shankar M. Bidari, considered a Yeddyurappa man, resurrected this case and filed an
FIR on October 30, without naming the accused. Gowda declared war and directly accused Yeddyurappa of trying to use Bidari. The DGP, in a public letter, refuted this and asked the government to hand over the case to the lokayukta, where all charges against both camps are being filed and fought.
“They can foist all the cases they want to against me, my father and my brothers,” says Kumaraswamy. He and his father are planning to tour the state, seeking sympathy for being victims of vendetta. If Yeddyurappa comes out of jail, he will also do a tour, drumming up sympathy for his jail term caused by Kumaraswamy’s “vindictiveness”. The Karnataka voter will have to figure out which ‘victim’ to sympathise with.
KUMARASWAMYWITH ACTRESS RADHIKA, ALLEGEDLY HIS
YEDDYURAPPAWITH RAJADESHIKENDRA SHIVACHARYA SWAMI, PONTIFF OFRAMBHAPURI MUTT