In the Byzantine politics of the BJP in Karnataka, nothing is as it seems. The party is in a perennial state of war, and the main protagonist is former chief minister, the corruption tainted B S Yeddyurappa. Apart from dubious land deals involving its ministers and MLAs, another scam has hit the government—alleged misappropriation of funds in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 2008-2009.
Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh recently wrote to Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar about malfeasance of over Rs 600 crore in MGNREGA. Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa, who is also the Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Revenue has sought a detailed report from each district on the reported misuse of funds. Eswarappa, who is the state party chief as well, is a trenchant critic of Yeddyurappa. Incidentally, the MGNREGA scam allegedly took place during Yeddyurappa’s reign.
“The main crux of the misappropriation of funds which occurred during 2008-09 was pertaining to non-payment of wages to the beneficiaries,” says Eshwarappa. He announced that to streamline the implementation of the MGNREGA—which has been enhanced from 100 days of employment in a year to 150—the state government has taken measures to recruit over 1,400 engineering staff and 5,600 data entry operators at the Nemmadi Kendras.
Eshwarappa is on record saying the misappropriation of MGNREGA money was also confirmed by a third party inspection report, which is now with the state government. Coincidentally, one of Yeddyurappa’s closest political and personal loyalists, Shobha Karandlaje was the minister for Rural Development and Panchayath Raj Department during 2008- 09.
Shettar, who was the minister of Rural Development and the Panchayath before becoming the chief minister had admitted to the charges of misappropriation of funds in the scheme and said that an investigations are being conducted. Meanwhile, the war of words between Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa continues to take amusing turns. After the Lingayat leader demanded Eswarappa’s resignation from the state party chief’s post, the latter remarked “I enjoy more affection from him (Yeddyurappa) and it was reflected in his remarks about me.”