Panel wants CBI to probe Kumaraswamy bribe case

The Rs 150-crore graft charge against Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has returned to haunt the JD(S)-BJP coalition in Karnataka, reports BR Srikanth.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 02:36 IST

The Rs 150-crore graft charge against Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has returned to haunt the JD(S)-BJP coalition in Karnataka.

The commission of inquiry appointed by the state government to inquire into the allegations levelled by rebel BJP legislator G Janardhan Reddy has sought an investigation by the CBI.

The decision of the Justice UL Bhat Commission is manna for the Opposition Congress and for Reddy too. Both said on Wednesday that their demand for a CBI probe had been vindicated.

"This is a clear embarrassment for the government. The chief minister should step down and institute a CBI inquiry," Reddy—who blew the whistle on the alleged pay-offs by iron ore mine owners in Bellary district—said.

His repeated attacks on Kumaraswamy earned him suspension from the party. However, the BJP did not expel him due to the intervention of some of the party's central leaders and state unit party functionaries.

"I hope the state government will accept the commission's recommendation and allow the Centre to order a CBI probe into the graft charges. Till the CBI inquiry is completed, Kumaraswamy should resign and not hold any office on moral grounds," Reddy told a press conference.

"I have full faith in the CBI and will provide all evidence before it," he added.
Congress leaders Dharam Singh and Mallikarjun Kharge, on their part, said the commission's decision would force the state government to hand over the investigations to the CBI, a long standing demand of the party.

The chief minister said the issue was left to the panel's discretion and his government would "not interfere" in the matter. "We have ordered an inquiry. It is up to them (UL Bhat Commission) to take decisions within the framework of law. There will be no interference from the government," he said.

A CBI probe could be a mighty blow for Kumaraswamy's father, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, who once ridiculed the investigating agency as a "chor bachao institution".

Reddy had first charged Kumaraswamy with accepting a bribe of Rs 150 crore from people operating iron ore mines without licence in Bellary district on July 7.

A few days later, he had said state Home Minister MP Prakash and Forests Minister C Chennigappa were also guilty of graft.

On July 21, the state government had ordered a judicial inquiry into all mining activities, including illegal mining, that were being carried out in the state since January 2000. It had also directed the commission to include the bribery charges against the chief minister in the scope of inquiry.

First Published: Nov 23, 2006 02:36 IST