BENGALURU: The rift within the state Congress seems to have widened with Higher Education Minister Basavaraja Rayareddi denying the allegations made by the National Students Union of Indian (NSUI) state president on purchase of blank marks cards and calling it the result of a “personal grudge”.
Addressing a press conference, Rayareddi rejected claims of irregularities in the purchase of blank marks cards for state universities, which, according to NSUI, is one of the biggest scam. Rayareddi alleged, “ NSUI state president Manjunath Gowda met me recently requesting to pass over 100 engineering students studying at VTU, who had failed to complete the courses. He tried to put pressure on me in various ways, but I did not bend. So he made false allegations and is trying to tarnish my image.”
Following the allegations and the complaint filed by NSUI with AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, the minister said, “I am nowhere involved in the purchase of marks cards because the government has no role in such issues and the university syndicates take the decision.” He said the decision “was taken at a meeting held at Karnataka State Council for Higher Education in June 2016, where representatives of all state universities were present. Based on that decision, we issued a government order to buy blank marks cards from Mysore Sales International Ltd (MSIL), a government organisation.”
Rayareddi, however, said he was not aware of which company MSIL had hired to provide the blank marks cards. “As per my knowledge there is no chance of corruption in MSIL. I did not know that the company picked by MSIL was blacklisted. I will ask for an explanation from MSIL,” he said.
The minister even suspected the hand of paper supply contractors in the issue. “Not just paper suppliers, there are many people making false allegations against me, he said. “The AICC general secretary has not sought explanation from me, but I will give an explanation to the KPCC president and Venugopal on my own,” he said.
Two days ago, NSUI submitted a complaint to Venugopal alleging a marks card scam and stating that the minister had insisted that universities to buy blank marks cards from MSIL. The company gave the tender to a third party due to which the price of the marks cards rose from Rs 3 to Rs 5 and then to Rs 30 and finally to Rs 90.
Manjunath Gowda had also alleged that Rayareddi had shown undue favour to a Mumbai-based private vendor by forcing MSIL to source the blank marks cards from that company in violation of rules and regulations and tender processing under Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act. The Mumbai-based vendor is a broker of MSIL and is involved in selling fake marks cards and certificates in other states, Manjunath had alleged .Manjunath urged Venugopal to instruct Rayareddi to immediately withdraw the order favouring MSIL and safeguard the reputation of universities in state.
‘Will meet guv and sort out issues’
Higher Education Minister Basavaraja Rayareddi said he has highest respect for the governor. Following recent media reports about the Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister asking him to rein in the minister as he is making public statements against Raj Bhavan, he said, “I am not aware about any such communication from Raj Bhavan. The CM has not called me to discuss the issue. I have high regard for the Governor and Raj Bhavan.” He said there may be some miscomm-unication. “I will soon meet the governor and clarify. I will also discuss about the appointment of vice-chancellors to some universities where the posts have been vacant since several months,” he said.
Order to be reviewed
On Thursday, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal held a meeting with Basavaraj Rayareddi and NSUI leaders. Speaking after the meeting, NSUI president Manjunath Gowda said, “The minister said he was unaware of the order issued by the department officials and assured to issue revised order and keep MSIL away from marks cards supply.” Reacting to the allegation against him made by the minister, Gowda said, “The minister might have got confused what my request was. We explained about that too to him and he agreed that he was confused.”