Barely a week after the BJP was stung by Lalit Modi’s revelations, another ghost returns to haunt the party, this time in what was once hailed as its gateway to south India. The Karnataka Lokayukta Police has filed four FIRs against former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa on charges of corruption and nepotism for denotifying tracts of government lands when he was in power.
In 2012, on the basis of a CAG report, the complaint was filed against Yeddyurappa and others, including another former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) . Following the CID enquiry ordered by the Karnataka High Court, the BJP stalwart is headed for a tough phase in his chequered career, which includes a brief departure from the BJP to form his own party.
An officer in the Lokayukta told TEHELKA, “More cases against Yeddyurappa and other leaders are likely to be filed this week. Some of these cases are watertight, with sufficient documentary evidence.” The series of cases filed involves not just the two former chief ministers Yeddyurappa and HD Kumaraswamy but also some BJP leaders who benefited from the largesse of the denotification, which is being considered illegal in nature.
Like in the case of Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje, the BJP is leaving the former CM to fend for himself in handling these cases. Senior leaders in the state BJP unit have maintained a stoic silence on the issue, not willing to be dragged into the row.
Politically, it is being seen as another setback for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims of wiping out corruption in the BJP, as it was at his insistence that Yeddyurappa was taken back in the party even while the probe into several corruption charges was on against the Lingayat strongman.
It may be recalled that it was the tough stance of the then BJP President Nitin Gadkari on corruption issues in 2012 which had forced Yeddyurappa and his supporters to leave the BJP and form the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP).
Anger is simmering in the Yeddyurappa camp again that the party is not seen rallying behind Yeddyurappa in his hour of crisis.
The fresh FIRs could spell more trouble for him, as the charges against him are now substantiated by the cid probe on the 2012 CAG report findings. The fact is that the CAG had made scathing remarks against him and Kumaraswamy for disregarding the well-defined law that once land is in the possession of the government, it cannot be denotified. The denotification of 610 acres and 16.5 gunta of land referred to in the CAG report was ordered when Kumaraswamy and Yeddyurappa were the chief ministers and in between, during a period of president’s rule. The role of some of the senior bureaucrats and officers is also being investigated, as the denotifications benefited a handful of individuals to the tune of several hundred crore rupees. The Lokayukta probe finds that the government went ahead and denotified the land during 2007-12 without referring the cases to the denotification committee.
In seven cases, the state government denotified in an irregular manner 16 acres and 15.2 gunta (as per the FIRs filed so far) in four layouts in Bengaluru after land had been taken possession of and developed by BDA. ‘These denotifications had been done by following orders of the incumbent chief ministers who disregarded the well-settled law that land, once taken possession of, cannot be denotified,’ the CAG report says.
There’s more. The CAG exposed that in three of these cases, denotifications had been done in layouts where sites formed on the denotified land had already been allotted to the general public. In four cases, the denotified land was subsequently sold to other persons. This “subversion of the acquisition process culminating in the denotifications had been done only to facilitate the sale of the land acquired for public purpose,” says the CAG.
In six of the seven cases, denotification happened within a short span of about 1-3 months. The hasty process meant that the credibility of the previous landowners in whose favour the denotification was done or the reasons for denotification were not duly investigated, says the CAG.
With the FIRs having been filed now on the heels of the CAG report and the CID probe, it may be a while before the legal machinery is set in motion. While Yeddyurappa himself and leaders from the state unit of his party are not willing to comment on the fresh FIRs, the Congress government in Karnataka may have managed to nail the BJP, especially Yeddyurappa.
As senior Congress leader Janardhana Poojari, tells Tehelka, “If this does not constitute corruption, what does? The prime minister must break his silence on such issues.”