In recent days, we have seen a Congress Minister, Congress MLC, Congress MLA, a Congress woman leader and middle level bureaucrats linked to the top leadership of the government in Karnataka being nabbed with unexplained quantum of cash and income. All playing stellar roles in the widespread loot of our city and state. But of most interest to Bengalureans is the MLC in Steelbridge – Rs 65 crore”.
Now, that simple entry explains everything. The tearing hurry of the chief minster and his reinstated Bengaluru minister and real estate tycoon KJ George to push through a monstrosity of a project. A project that has blatantly inflated costs, no environmental impact assessment, a sham and scam of a public consultation, opposition from thousands of Bengalureans, media outcry etc . Tens of thousands of Bengalureans have protested against this project and misuse of public money. But all were ignored and now we know why. The steel flyover is emblematic of the all-pervasive corruption that has come to define this government.
I was the first to say way back in June 2016 – after writing to the chief minister and the BDA commissioner cautioning them about the non-transparent way they were pushing this project – that this was not a project for Bengaluru but rather a contractor-driven project aimed with the sole purpose of ‘collecting’ money. I have always maintained this as have many in Bengaluru and these recent revelations have proved us right. The steel flyover is nothing but a naked, brazen way of exploiting the city by a group of shameless politicians – who tried to con the city and its people into believing that this was in their interest.
I am convinced the diary exists because of the reaction from the Congress government. It is very revealing. The reaction at the charge was not a denial that the diary exists. Rather it was a silly, clumsy attempt to distract away from it by counter charging with some claim on BJP leaders with a CD. Corruption is not political Ping-Pong to be played between two sets of political leaders. It is a matter on which public servants are unambiguously accountable to the citizens and communities that they serve and are trustees of. That is why we have something called the Prevention of Corruption Act amongst our many laws – to keep public servants honest and to jail those who aren’t.
The conduct of this government is very similar to the Cong-led UPA government who got booted out in 2014 because of their rampant out-of-control corruption. There too, when faced with corruption scams like Commonwealth, 2G, coalgate, ISRO etc, various luminaries like Kalmadi, Sibal, Chidamabaram etc came to distract and spin away from the scams, attack and scare away those exposing the scams including the then CAG. The famous zero loss theory of Kapil Sibal that I publicly tore apart was part of that effort. Here too, there have been and will be all kinds attempts to distract away and even intimidate - but they won’t succeed.
This diary in a criminal prosecution has significant evidentiary value because it was seized from a MLC and not some third party. This in itself makes it different from other cases. The Lok Ayukta and other investigative agencies must take suo moto cognisance of this and seek the details from the Income Tax department that possibly has custody of the diary. They must investigate the entire Steel Flyover Project and identify those that need to be prosecuted if the diary’s contents confirm the media reports.
Those who were involved in scams like CWG, 2G, Coalgate etc have not escaped - here too ministers, bureaucrats and businesses who have for the last many years played the game of looting will be held to account for the loot and corruption. They will understand that looting has consequences. Of that, I have no doubt. The conviction of Sasikala should show our state’s corrupt how a game of corruption ends.
In addition to the existing Prevention of Corruption Act, there are a new set of laws that specifically cater to such kinds of corruption by those in government and their crony businesses and so to use our PM’s quote - there is no possibility of anyone wearing a raincoat while taking a shower anymore.
Justice Amitava Joy in his judgement convicting Sasikala refers to political corruption as ‘vice of insatiable avarice’ and calls for ‘collective effort to free us from the collective throttle of this deadly affliction”. The chief minister and those in government may wish to heed those words.
This article appeared in Bangalore Mirror on February 17, 2017