BENGALURU: The allegations of a “40 per cent commission corruption” scam have come to a head with the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association for the first time accusing and naming a cabinet minister, Horticulture and Planning & Statistics Minister, N Munirathna, for over-demanding bribes from contractors.
The fresh row over corruption charges, and naming a minister, has erupted even as the parties are preparing for the 2023 assembly polls.
The association had earlier written to PM Narendra Modi, accusing the authorities of demanding a “40 per cent” commission from contractors, which was repeatedly denied by the ruling BJP government. The association president D Kempanna on Wednesday accused Munirathna, who is also Kolar district in-charge minister of instructing an Executive Engineer (EE) of collecting hush money from contractors, threatening him with suspension from duty if he did not comply.
Interestingly, Kempanna’s serious allegations against the minister came after his meeting with Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah on Wednesday morning. “I will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again appreciating him for his remarks on corruption as it is an enemy of the nation, but also remind him that no action has been taken on the ground even a year after I wrote to him about the 40 per cent commission,” Kempanna said.
Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and Muniratna have rubbished the allegations. Bommai said there is no truth in the allegations made after Kempanna met Siddaramaiah. “Kempanna’s is one of the contractors’ associations. I advise him to furnish evidential documents to the Lokayukta for a probe as there is a system in place. Lokayukta has full freedom. Let them investigate and we will take action against those involved in any wrongdoing,” Bommai said.
Munirathna threatens to file a defamation suit
Bommai pointed out that Karnataka was the first state in India to set up a panel headed by a retired judge to scrutinise works worth Rs 50 crore and above. As Kempanna warned that he would write to Prime Minister Modi once again (he had written a detailed three-page letter to the PM on July 6, 2021), Bommai observed that not just Kempanna, but anybody had a right to write to the PM.
However, Kempanna was softer towards Chief Minister Bommai, calling him a “good person”, but one who has no weight in the government as the contractors have to approach the Court to get their dues against the works implemented in the government released.
Reacting sharply to the allegations made against him, Horticulture Minister Munirathna warned that he may file a defamation suit against Kempanna. “He has to provide me with the evidence to substantiate his allegations against me or face actions for making false allegations. If I am found guilty I am ready for any punishment,” he said.
Kempanna defended himself as he pointed out that about 200 contractors from Kolar had written to him recently against Munirathna.“If he files a defamation case, I welcome it as eventually we will submit all the evidence to the court,” Kempanna said.
Allegations made by a contractor Santosh Patil, who committed suicide earlier this year alleging harassment over releasse of funds for projects, had forced the then Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) K S Eshwarappa to resign. After the probe, the police gave a clean chit to the minister.