MLA Madalu Virupakshappa has given the Karnataka Congress yet another weapon in its arsenal to target the Basavaraj Bommai government ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.
While the BJP government has already faced several embarrassments, the senior MLA has robbed it of a chance to fight back. The corruption allegation has come at a time when Bommai has been asking for “proof” from the Congress of the alleged 40 per cent commission demanded from contractors. Virupakshappa has just provided the “proof”.
The MLA’s son was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe from a contractor. It was allegedly the first instalment of Rs 40 lakh of the total Rs 80 lakh in a deal related to Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL), where Virupakshappa was the chairman. Virupakshappa, who was also named in the Lokayukta FIR, tried to flee, but has now got interim bail from the High Court.
The case has pushed the BJP further on the back foot and embarrassed it at the national level. The central leadership has reportedly sought clarification from Bommai and state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel. They have also sent leader Dharmendra Pradhan and the party’s national General Secretary BL Santosh to look into the matter.
Why the BJP is worried
The state BJP’s fortnightly internal surveys are said to be showing very low figures — below 70 — in the upcoming polls. Anti-incumbency and other factors have prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP’s national president JP Nadda, and Santosh to visit Karnataka on a regular basis. Several other Union leaders have camped in Karnataka to work out election strategies.
Even the central leadership has of late understood the importance of former CM BS Yediyurappa, the Lingayat veteran who was asked to vacate his CM post. It looked like he was being cornered. Finally, just ahead of the polls, the central leadership has decided to give importance to BSY again.
However, in the 2018 elections, the BJP became the largest party in the state but did not cross the magic number of 113 to form its government. Now, the situation is much worse, as the BJP government is facing a series of allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Also read: Surveys say Congress will win 140+ seats in Karnataka polls: DK Shivakumar
The BJP had started opposing the Congress’ charges by accusing it of corruption in its previous governments, including the “redo” of land allocation to farmers in the Arkavathy Layout case. But the “40 per cent commission” scam, alleged by the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, became a weapon for Congress, leading to the PayCM campaign against the government.
The BJP has other factors to worry about, too, including unhappiness among leaders such as V Somanna, Narayana Gowda (both ministers), Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, Ramesh Jarkiholi, etc.
Congress calls bandh
Congress has now called a two-hour Karnataka bandh on March 9 in protest against the “rampant corruption” by the BJP government. State Pradesh Congress Committee chief DK Shivakumar announced the state-wide bandh after Lokayukta police arrested the BJP MLA’s son. The state-wide bandh will be held from 9 am to 11 am.
Congress has also charged former minister KS Eshwarappa in the “40 per cent commission” issue. Eshwarappa resigned after a contractor named him in a video before killing himself.
Even as the corruption cases hit the BJP hard, its communal agenda, including halal, hijab, azan, and other issues, did not work out very well for it. According to analysts, “caste and cash” should work during the elections. Since the Congress is also facing corruption charges during its rule, its allegations against the BJP may not have cut much ice with the people. But the Madalu case is a big win for Congress.
Also read: Karnataka: Bommai calls Congress corrupt, says Cong bandh will evoke no response
At the same time, the Congress has promised 200 units of free power and Rs 2000 to every woman head of the family. “If power leakage is prevented, if 40 per cent corruption in the energy department is prevented, if we can recover thousands of crores of dues from big clans, nothing is impossible,” DK Shivakumar has said.
In the 2013 elections, the BJP lost to the Congress following corruption charges, Lokayukta cases, internal rifts, a few MLAs watching porn movies inside the Legislative Assembly, then CM BSY exiting the BJP, and the Reddy brothers’ mining scam. The current situation looks very similar. But the rift in the Congress between DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah may cost the party dear.