The government on Thursday came down heavily on Karnataka state contractors’ association (KSCA) president D Kempanna for making “baseless” allegations against it and not providing evidence to back his claims, even as horticulture minister Munirathna decided to file a defamation case against the KSCA.
Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said: “I demand that details and evidence for allegations made. If it is provided, (I) will order an inquiry in 24 hours.”
His reaction comes a day after the KSCA reiterated its earlier charge that MLAs and ministers demand as much as 40-50% commission or bribes for granting public works contracts. Kempanna also said corruption was rampant and leaders from all parties indulged in it.
Kempanna met with Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Wednesday before speaking to the media.
The KSCA president also named Munirathna, minister in charge of Kolar district, of seeking bribes through executive engineers or threatening suspension.
“The (Kolara) district minister tells the executive engineer that if he does not collect money (from contractors) he will be suspended. What is this?” Kempanna told reporters in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
In November last year, a letter written by the contractors’ association to prime minister Narendra Modi surfaced in which they had alleged that elected representatives and other officials were harassing them and demanding bribes.
The allegations levelled by one section of contractors against the government (present and past) and officials in Karnataka had rekindled the debate on the close nexus between elected representatives and their stooges who end up getting most of the tenders in public works.
On Thursday, Munirathna said he will slap a ₹50 crore defamation charge against the KSCA and all its office bearers.
“The contractors association and its president Kempanna have made allegations of 40% commission. For the past 14 months, they have levelled these allegations and even written to the prime minister, but have failed to provide any evidence,” he said.
“I have decided to file a ₹50 crore defamation suit against the association with a lot of pain. The suit is against the KSCA and all its office bearers as I cannot file it against one single person. Let them come to court and prove their charges on the government seeking 40% commission by providing evidence,” he said.
Asked, Kempanna said he welcomed the defamation suit. “We welcome it (defamation suit). After this, we can release all the documents in court. They (elected representatives) are very big and intelligent, but we are ready to face all these cases. We will submit all documents before the courts,” he said.
On Thursday, the state cabinet discussed the charges levelled by Kempanna and said the association should not work on direction of opposition political parties, but instead approach the courts, Lokayukta or any other competent body.
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