In an embarrassment for the state BJP which is trying hard to retain power in the state, the son of BJP MLA Maadal Virupakshappa was arrested by the Karnataka Lokayukta on Thursday (March 2) after he was caught red-handed while taking a bribe of ₹40 lakh from contractors in exchange of providing tenders. Lokayukta officials during subsequent raids, also recovered around ₹8 crore cash from the house of the MLA.
Lokayukta officials are conducting raids at various properties of the MLA including his residence in Sanjay Nagar to ascertain the source of the recovered cash.
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Lokayukta sources, citing preliminary investigation, told The Federal that the MLA himself was involved in the ‘deal’ and allegedly made his son collect the bribe.
The incident comes in the backdrop of the Contractors’ Association accusing the government of wanting a 40 per cent cut in government projects. While it weakens the BJP’s poll prospects ahead of the Assembly elections, it comes just ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state to attend the Vijay Sankapla rally at Devanahalli.
‘Took bribe at behest of MLA father’
Officials of Lokayukta, the Karnataka government’s anti-corruption watchdog, said they caught Virupakshappa’s son Prashanth Madalu in the act while he was accepting a bribe from contractors in exchange of tenders to supply chemicals to the Karnataka Soap and Detergent Factory Limited (KSDL), at his private office. Virupakshappa, the BJP legislator from the Channagiri Assembly constituency in Bengaluru is the president of president of KSDL.
Verupakshappa, was lobbying to be a part of the Yediyurappa and now the Basavaraj Bommai cabinet to become minister. It is said that he was planning to push his elder son to contest in the Assembly elections this year.
Lokayukta sources said that he had allegedly made a deal with a contractor to supply chemicals for ₹81 lakh bribe and his son was accepting half the amount. The contractor was told in advance to handover the bribe to Prashanth, the sources added.
Prashanth, an officer at the Commercial Taxes Department, is on deputation as Chief Accountant in Bengaluru Water and Sewage Supplies Board (BWSSB).
₹8 crore cash seized, five arrested
The Lokayukta police have searched the MLA and his son’s house and seized several documents. Four other persons besides Prashanth have been arrested in the case. They are Siddesh, a relative, Surendra his accountant, Nicholas, and Gangadhar.
During the raid, Lokayukta officials also seized documents and cash worth ₹8 crore from the MLAs residence including ₹2 crore in his office. The exact information about the amount of jewellery and property deeds found in the house is not known. That apart unaccounted cash worth ₹1-1.2 crore was found at Prashanth’s resident in Dollars Colony.
The accused will be produced before the Lokayukta Special court on Friday.
More raids underway
The Lokayukta conducted the raid based on a complaint by Shreyas Kashyap, a contractor based in Bangalore. This is the first such single raid by the anti-corruption unit in which crores of rupees were recovered, after being empowered by the state government.
Further raids are underway to trace the source of the money. Officials are investigating where the money came from and what is the source of income of the MLA and his son.
A visibly embarrassed Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters that it was the state government which invested more power in the Lokayukta by dismantling the Anti-Corruption Bureau last year and giving the police force back to Lokayukta. “The government is transparent and strengthened the Lokayukta to look at corruption cases,” he said.
He said that the Congress, when it was in power, was also involved in several corruption cases and an overall investigation will be conducted.
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The Lokayukta police were diverted from the Lokayukta institution and merged with a separate Anti-Corruption Bureau when Siddaramaiah was the chief minister. The High Court last year ordered the closing of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and asked the police force to be with Lokayukta as it was earlier.
Sources said the central leadership of the BJP has called Bommai and sought details on the case.
Brownie points for Congress
The Lokayukta raid has made the opposition Congress happy as it has achieved one more ‘weapon’ against the ruling BJP at the time of elections. DK Shivakumar, the KPCC chief said that this incident is the proof for the ’40 percent commission’ allegation against the government.