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Scam-struck BJP takes it out on Gowda

S. Rajendran

BANGALORE: The Bharatiya Janata Party government and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in particular are going all out to root out the Janata Dal (Secular) from Karnataka, they having been rattled by its consistently highlighting what has been described as land scams involving Mr. Yeddyurappa and his relatives.

It is another matter that the JD(S) has only bounced back every time an attempt was made to rout it.

The Chief Minister has been candid in saying his primary focus now is on “finishing the JD(S) and ensuring that only the Congress and the BJP remain the political parties in the State… People are tired of Mr. Deve Gowda [JD-S president] and his sons, and I will take them head on.”

Close on the heels of the appointment of a commission of inquiry, headed by B. Padmaraj, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, to go into all cases of acquisition and de-notification of land for industrial and residential purposes, allotment of housing sites under the ‘G' category (which is a privilege of the Chief Minister), and land acquisition by the Karnataka Housing Board, the Cabinet has opted for a probe by the Criminal Investigation Department into controversial piecework contracts awarded for the Upper Krishna Project when Mr. Gowda was Chief Minister. If the judicial inquiry is to cover the period from January 1995 till date, the CID will also go into all that happened 15 years ago.

The BJP has also launched an advertisement blitzkrieg to highlight what it has termed the misdeeds and frauds of the past. A special cell has been constituted in the Chief Minister's office to collate all material on land acquisition and allotments over the past 15 years.

Mr. Gowda, who was Chief Minister between December 1994 and May 1996 before becoming Prime Minister, opted for piecework contracts for the giant Upper Krishna Project since Karnataka was racing against the deadline set under the Bacchawat Tribunal Award for utilisation of 735 tmcft of water under Scheme ‘A.'

To strike at Mr. Gowda, the government has used the ruse that it has preferred a CID investigation, based on a High Court directive to the Chief Secretary in a public interest litigation petition.

Meanwhile, Lokayukta Santosh Hegde has been highly critical of the ham-handed manner in which the government opted for a judicial inquiry even when he launched a major investigation into a land scam in the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board involving a Minister and his son, who is a councillor in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

The Advocate-General has since opined that the Lokayukta should be permitted to go ahead with the investigation and all other matters could be referred to the judicial probe. Hence, the Padmaraj Commission's terms of reference are set to be altered.

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