Bengaluru: A routine income tax raid in the Karnataka capital is now beginning to pose an existential threat to the Congress government in the state with the chief minister Siddaramaiah having to answer some embarrassing questions.
IT sleuths had unearthed around Rs 150 crore in unaccounted property and cash – Rs 5.7 crore was in new notes of Rs 2,000 – at the palatial residences of two state government engineers on Thursday. Within minutes, the tremors were felt in Belgaum in the Maharashtra border where the state Assembly was in session.
Local media has speculated that the two engineers – Chikkarayappa and SC Jayachandra – are close to CM Siddaramaiah. The Opposition BJP and JDS stalled both the houses of state legislature seeking an explanation from Siddaramaiah on the nature of his “relationship” with them.
Worse, a section of the state unit of Congress is up in arms against the CM.
“It is a serious thing. Both the officials must be arrested immediately. Who is their big boss? It could even be the chief minister himself. The incident has ruined our image and the BJP has gained an upper hand. After this we can’t oppose demonetization. People think that we are fighting to protect the corrupt who are close to us,” veteran Congress leader and former Union minister B Janardhana Poojary told News18 from Mangalore.
The CM was quick to disassociate himself from these two engineers. “No government official is close to me. All 6.5 crore people of Karnataka are close to me. If these two have made money and corrupt, let the concerned departments take action against them. I am not protecting anyone. Please spare me,” he told News18.
However, it might not be that easy for the CM to extricate himself out of the mess.
The CM and his government – especially his close aide and PWD minister Dr HC Mahadevappa – would find it difficult to answer how these two bureaucrats landed plum posts in the government despite serious charges of corruption against them.
Siddaramaiah had appointed Chikkarayappa as PWD secretary over the heads of many seniors immediately after taking charge as chief minister in May 2013. After the posting became controversial, Siddaramaiah defended the decision. A year ago, the same officer was made the Managing Director of Cauvery Irrigation Corporation.
Another officer Jayachandra is also accused of massive corruption and had faced several inquiries in the past. Critics of the PWD minister allege the officer survived prosecution because of his proximity to the minister.
A top IT officer told News18 that both Chikkarayappa and Jayachandra have told them that the money found at their places were meant for some ministers.
Congress leadership is watching the developments nervously. “If these officers spill the beans and name some ministers, we will be doomed. The Centre can order a CBI inquiry against bank officials. If that happens, bank officials will definitely name these two engineers. Then they might name some ministers. Do you think the BJP government at the Centre will keep quiet?” a senior party leader told News18.
KPCC president and Home Minister G Parameshwara was quick to the seize the opportunity announcing the suspension of both engineers in the state legislature, thus forcing the CM to order a formal suspension of his alleged close confidantes.