Yeddyurappa denies charges, critics recall his past

Bengaluru: BJP’s Karnataka unit president B.S. Yeddyurappa on Friday refuted the charge that he had paid crores of rupees to BJPs national leaders. But his critics remain unconvinced, playing back the episode around eight years ago when Yeddyurappa had to resign as Chief Minister after the states anti-corruption watchdog Lokayukta (ombudsman) indicted him in the multi-crore mining scam that rocked the state from 2002 to 2010.

“Congress leaders have planted this story in the media to gain political mileage and carry malicious campaign in the coming (general) elections,” said an unfazed 76-year-old Yeddyurappa in a statement here.

The news magazine (The Caravan) reported that Yeddyurappa had allegedly paid Rs 1,800 crore to BJP’s leaders, based on diary entries purportedly in his handwriting that note payoffs to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, the BJP stalwart L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi among others.

“The charge about the alleged payment of crores of rupees has already been inquired into by the IT department officials who found that the documents (diary entries) were fake and signatures forged,” said Yeddyurappa.

The magazine report alleged payouts were recorded by Yeddyurappa in a state assembly legislator’s 2009 diary, in Kannada, in his own hand when he was the chief minister of the southern state.

Yeddyurappa was the BJP’s first Chief Minister in Karnataka from May 30, 2008 to July 31, 2011. The party’s then high command directed him to resign after the state’s Lokayukta indicted him in the multi-crore mining scam that rocked the state from 2002 to 2010.

Then Lokayukta (Justice N. Santosh Hegde) had recommended the prosecution of Yeddyurappa as a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961 for his direct involvement in the mining scam as the mining department came under him.”

The watchdog report also found that Yeddyurappa’s family members, including two sons benefiting from the mining scam. Investigations by a five-member ombudsman’s team found that a leading mining firm – South West Mining Company, owned by the Mumbai-based Jindal Group donating Rs 10 crore to an education trust – Prerana Trust, floated by Yeddyurappa’s family.

“The donation was made by the company by borrowing funds from others for being benefited in illegally mining rich iron ore and exporting the material.”

The family members were also found guilty of selling one acre of land near Bengaluru to the mining firm for Rs 20 crore, when the state-run guidance value was Rs 1 crore.

The report found that the exchequer of the central and state governments had lost Rs 16,085 crore from 2006 to 2010 due to illegal mining and export of iron ore from the state’s ports on the west coast in the form of royalty, central excise duty, value added tax and other levies.

The report has found massive illegalities and irregularities committed by Yeddyurappa, four of his then cabinet colleagues and others, including a former Rajya Sabha member and state assembly legislator of the BJP from Bellary district, about 300km from Bengaluru.

The four state cabinet ministers were then revenue minister G. Karunakara Reddy, infrastructure development & tourism minister G. Janardhana Reddy, health minister B. Sriramulu and housing minister V. Somanna.

The powerful Reddy brothers, including lawmaker G. Somashekara Reddy hail from the rich iron ore district of Bellary.

Yeddyurappa was also arrested and jailed on October 15, 2011 in graft cases related to land scam, but was released after three weeks on November 8, 2011 on bail from the Karnataka High Court.

The cases against Yeddyurappa were filed by two Bengaluru-based advocates Sirajin Basha and K.N. Balaraj in January 2011 alleging corrupting and illegal land deals by him and his family members.