The allegation by Karnataka State Contractors’ Association (KSCA) that BJP legislators and ministers were demanding a “40% commission” for government projects has come to haunt the party even as Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai refuted the claims and asked the body to complain to the Lokayukta.
The association has, however, demanded an independent judicial probe into the allegations, saying they would produce evidence only before such a probe.
Chief Minister Bommai rejected the allegations saying it came after the KSCA members met Congress leader Siddaramaiah, suggesting a political motive behind the allegations.
However, the BJP is a worried lot, ahead of next year’s assembly elections. The party has been targeting the former CM, trying to find loopholes and raking up issues such as the Congress’s support to Tipu Sultan, attacks on Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar, eating non-veg food before temple visits.
‘Brahmastra’ for Congress
For the Congress, the KSCA allegation has come as timely ammunition, which some even call ‘Brahmastra’, and the party is planning to launch an all-out attack on the BJP government, and even target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had in his Independence Day speech strongly condemned corruption.
Siddaramaiah met the president of the Contractors Association D Kempanna and others and discussed the 40% commission issue and its effects on contractors. Kempanna and others described the issue in detail and handed over several documents concerning the charges.
Siddaramaiah, after the meeting said that Modi once made an allegation that the (former) Siddaramaiah government was “a 10 per cent commission government”. But “there was no document to prove it”. Now the contractors are making an allegation against the BJP government about 40 per cent commission and they are ready to provide documents, he said.
Also read: BJP targets Siddaramaiah as ‘Savarkar Chariot’ makes its way across districts
“We will take this issue before the public during election time. Let me see how the BJP leaders justify this. The contractors need to give a 40 per cent commission to the concerned, even before the tender is called for. They have written a letter to the Prime Minister, but till now there’s no response from Modi,” he said.
The Congress has decided to take up this issue in the coming Assembly Session in September. They will also make it an election issue, sources said.
“When the BJP is busy with polarising the votes through communal issues, food habits and Veer Savarkar issues, we will fight against the government by taking the developmental issues and the corruption,” a leader who did not wish to be quoted said.
Death of a BJP worker-contractor
Last year too, the contractors had written to the Prime Minister regarding the 40% commission, which went in crores of rupees based on the project they took up.
In this connection, a BJP worker and contractor, Santosh K Patil, was found hanging from his house in Udupi in April 2022, after he made allegations against the former rural development and panchyat raj Minister KS Eshwarappa. The allegation was that the minister harassed him for 40 per cent commission for works of ₹4 crore in Hindalaga village of Belagavi district.
Eshwarappa was forced to quit the Bommai government. However, the police filed a B report and gave a clean chit to Eshwarappa, who made his way back into the Bommai ministry.
However, before his death, Santosh, a public works (PWD) contractor from Koppal, had written to Prime Minister Modi about the 40percent commission issue.
Also read: Karnataka Congress adopts four-pronged strategy to woo Lingayats
The letter also alleged that the executive engineers and junior engineers among others are demanding commission to release payments. The contractor said that it would be very difficult for small-time contractors.
Though the Congress party staged a protest against the 40 per cent commission issue several times, Siddaramaiah for the first time met the contractors and demanded a judicial probe.
Even the Brihat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) contractors have in the past alleged that they need to give 40-50% commission to the BJP government. In a few places including Lingasur and Devadurga, there was no construction, but the bills were issued.
One more letter
KSCA is planning to write another letter to Modi in this regard. The association has around 1 lakh members, who have written two letters to the PM in July and November of 2021.
KSCA president Kempanna told the media that he would call for an emergency meeting of its executive committee before sending the letter. Though there was no response to the first two letters, we will write one more, he said.
The allegation is that the contractors are to give kickbacks for getting contracts from irrigation, Public works Department (PWD), Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) and ₹22,000 crore worth of payments are pending from these departments to the contractors.