Income tax raids in Karnataka on Thursday, the first day of Navratri, revealed the alleged involvement of over 25 middlemen, companies and contractors in connection with the laundering of “cut” money allegedly made in irrigation contracts worth Rs 25,000 crore . This IT raid may have gone unnoticed in a highly corrupt state like Karnataka, but for Kingpin Umesh, who was a trusted personal assistant to former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and his children. Umesh, who is a bus conductor with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), is accused of collecting “commission” of over Rs 2,500-3,000 crore, with a salary of Rs 32,000 per month.
The sudden IT raid on BSY’s close confidants has shook the ruling BJP in Karnataka. Even though Yediyurappa has minimized the raids by distancing himself from them, insiders are claiming that he is upset. IT officials have targeted Umesh, several contractors, chartered accountants, wholesale hardware traders and a few others of BSY’s second son, BY Vijayendra. Apart from Bangalore, the search operation was carried out at many places including Bagalkot and Tumkur. Bags of documents, pen drives etc. have been seized from these places.
While the BSY camp is shocked by the incident, his opponents in the BJP are celebrating the downfall of Vijayendra, whom he blames for the rampant corruption during his father’s two-year tenure.
BJP MLC and a senior leader H Vishwanath welcomed the IT raids, calling them “inevitable”. “I had always said that Vijayendra was involved in an irrigation scam worth over Rs 25,000 crore. The ongoing IT raids prove my allegations. I feel proven,” he said.
The leaders close to the BSY either chose to remain silent or made some cursory rhetoric. However, some people said privately that the BJP veterans are angry and this may affect the party in the by-elections to the two assembly seats.
“If he decides not to campaign for the party, it will send a wrong message. Hope he campaigns,” he said.
Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai declined to comment on the IT raid. He is close to BSY, but ordered Umesh to be sent back to BMTC, who was still in the Chief Minister’s Office.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah said he was not aware of any retaliation by the BJP and it could be true. “I do not know whether this is a routine raid or a raid to silence BSY, who is angry with his expulsion. It could be anything,” he said.
Former chief minister and JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy said it was a warning by the BJP high command to keep Yeddyurappa under control. “It could be a warning shot. Everyone knows his government was extremely corrupt.”
Home Minister Arga Gyanendra and Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa, both from BSY’s Shimoga district, rubbished the allegations, claiming that the IT raids were routine and Yediyurappa should not be held responsible.
Vijayendra, who was hit by the storm, has also refused to comment on the raids on his close aides. Some believe that the party is uncomfortable with his political ambitions and that IT raids will go against him.
However, some political observers said the IT raids would further strain the relationship between the BSY and the BJP. Surprisingly, some Lingayat saints who have always run in the defense of Yediyurappa have so far kept silent on the IT raids fueling all kinds of speculations.
However, BJP workers in the state believe that the raid will have no bearing on the party’s prospects as Yeddyurappa’s era in Karnataka politics was already over.