Graft charge shrouds Karnataka govt as contractors’ body accuses ministers of seeking bribe

Published on Jan 17, 2023 12:46 AM IST

The Basavaraj Bommai government in Karnataka is once again besieged by allegations of corruption in government contracts, with the head of the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association on Monday claiming that the grouping has documents to prove that several ministers and legislators were demanding bribes.

Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai denied having any knowledge about the clip. (PTI)
Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai denied having any knowledge about the clip. (PTI)
By, Bengaluru

The Basavaraj Bommai government in Karnataka is once again besieged by allegations of corruption in government contracts, with the head of the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association on Monday claiming that the grouping has documents to prove that several ministers and legislators were demanding bribes.

At a press conference on Monday, the working president of the association, Manjunath (who goes by one name), claimed that the association has audio clips and WhatsApp messages to show that 13-14 MLAs and three to four ministers in the BJP government were involved in corruption. He alleged that Chitradurga BJP MLA GH Thippareddy demanded a bribe from him and released an audio clip of the conversation.

Manjunath, said: “We have documents regarding corruption against 13-14 MLAs and 3-4 Ministers. Contractors have all evidence but are scared to come out. Look at what happened to Santhosh Patil. We have come forward to disclose the evidence after discussing with all our family members and with the support of the association.”

The association did not release other audio clips and WhatsApp messages. HT has heard the audio clip released but cannot vouch for its authenticity.

Thippareddy refuted the allegations and alleged that Manjunath has “personal hatred” towards him. “For 10-20 years, I have had differences with him (Manjunath). Whatever work he did, he wanted to have the final word. He used to threaten officials that he was the district president. He discriminated against small contractors when they asked for work and asked which party they supported,” Thippareddy said.

“Manjunath had asked me to take up real estate business with him. I was against it… His nature is to threaten people and get the work done. He has done this out of personal hatred,” he added.

In April last year, veteran BJP leader KS Eshwarappa resigned as minister following allegations of his alleged involvement in the suicide of a Belagavi-based civil contractor Santosh Patil. Patil accused the BJP leader of demanding 40% commission. Eshwarappa has consistently denied his involvement.

A police investigation later gave a clean chit to Eshwarappa but Patil’s family moved a special court in Bengaluru against the closure report. Eshwarappa has contended that he was given a “clean chit” and sought his reinduction into the cabinet.

Reacting to the association’s allegation, former chief minister and leader of Opposition, Siddaramaiah, said: “Everyone knows about the 40% commission government.”

Bommai denied having knowledge about the audio clip. “I don’t know anything about the audio clip. I will react after seeing it,” he said.

Patil’s death opened a can of worms with several contractors coming forward to allege that the ruling BJP in the state demanded 40% of commission for public work contracts. The Karnataka State Contractors’ Association also wrote to the Prime Minister in this regard.

Talking to reporters on Monday, Manjunath alleged that there was no corruption in Chitradurga previously, and accused BJP MLA Thippareddy of starting it. He said that he himself paid 90 lakh to Thippareddy from 2019 to date.

“There was no commission or corruption in Chitradurga. It was started by Thippareddy . I have audio recordings and WhatsApp chats as proof of it. So far, work worth 700-800 crore has been taken up in Chitradurga district. The commission varies from 5% to 25%. In PWD work, it is 15%, for buildings, it is 5-10%. In the minor irrigation department, a 25% commission is being collected,” Manjunath alleged.

Manjunath pointed out that hand signals are used to convey how much commission has to be paid. “I constructed a PWD office in Chitradurga which was recently inaugurated by minister CC Patil. However, I am yet to get the final payment of the project. CC Patil should give an answer.”

HT reached out to Patil for a response but did not get one immediately.

Manjunath added that he has already filed a complaint with the Lokayukta against Thippareddy.

The association’s president, D Kempanna, alleged that some contractors had not been paid in three years. Kempanna faces a defamation suit filed by state minister Munirathna. “Since Munirathna has taken an injunction order, we can’t release all the documents yet. We will release some of the documents in 30 days,” he said.

Munirathna’s case follows an August claim by Kempanna and the association that he demanded a bribe. The contractors’ association has decided to stage a protest at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on January 18, demanding that the bills be cleared and other demands be fulfilled. Kempanna put the value of pending bills at around 23,000 crore.

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