How B Nagendra’s resignation is a significant setback for the Karnataka Congress - Hindustan Times

How B Nagendra’s resignation is a significant setback for the Karnataka Congress

Jun 09, 2024 07:45 AM IST

The Karnataka Congress, which once protested against BJP's alleged corruption, now finds itself embroiled in a multi-crore scandal.

The Congress in Karnataka, which came to power in 2013 after its 320 km padayatra from Bengaluru to Ballari in August 2010 to protest against the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government’s alleged corruption in the Obulapuram mining company illegal mining case. With the same vigour, the party campaigned against the Bommai government dubbing it as a “40% commission sarkara” in 2023. However, the party is now left red-faced, caught in a situation they once crusaded against.

Karnataka scheduled tribes welfare and youth empowerment and sports department minister B Nagendra tenders resignation from his ministerial post to chief minister Siddaramaiah, in Bengaluru on Thursday. (ANI)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Karnataka scheduled tribes welfare and youth empowerment and sports department minister B Nagendra tenders resignation from his ministerial post to chief minister Siddaramaiah, in Bengaluru on Thursday. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)

On June 6, chief minister Siddaramaiah's 13-month-old government suffered a significant setback after one of his cabinet colleagues resigned amid allegations of the latter's alleged involvement in a multi-crore scam. B Nagendra, who was the state minister for tribal welfare and sports, resigned after his name cropped up in an alleged 94.7 crore fraud in the Karnataka Maharshi Valmiki Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation Ltd (KMVSTDC). The organisation provides subsidies and loans under self-employment schemes along with skill training for the economic development of the tribal community.

The incident came to light after KMVSTDC accounts superintendent Chandrashekharan P, died by suicide on May 26, reportedly holding his superiors and Nagendra responsible for the scam. In his suicide note, Chandrashekaran said that out of 187 crore in the KMVSTDC’s account, 94.7 crore was illegally moved to various accounts and "allegedly looted".

The transfer of funds

In the complaint filed on May 28, based on which the FIR was registered, A Rajashekar, the general manager of the KMVSTDC alleged “severe fraudulent activities” involving the top management of the Union Bank of India, MG Road branch. The FIR says that between March 4 and May 21, 2021, various sums totalling 185.33 crore were credited to the corporation's MG Road account from different banks and the state treasury.

In March 2024, Chandrashekaran was directed by senior officials to transfer large sums of money from the department’s bank accounts at Union Bank of India’s Vasanth Nagar branch to the MG Road branch. Specific transactions included 25 crore on March 4, 25 crore on March 6, and 44 crore on March 21. On May 21, he was instructed to withdraw 50 crore confidentially from the MG Road bank account. However, he faced resistance from the bank manager who demanded the presence of authorised personnel or a written letter for such a large withdrawal. Despite these issues, the withdrawal was completed, allegedly showing the signatures of the MD and the accounts superintendent.

The superintendent’s suicide note detailed the pressure from KMVSTDC’s senior management to carry out the transactions. The FIR revealed unauthorised transfers totalling 94.73 crore.

In the alleged suicide note, Chandrashekaran accused JG Padmanabha, KMVSTDC managing director, and accounts officer Parashurama G Durgannanavar, and bank officials of misappropriating the funds, along with Nagendra, after allegedly getting “oral instructions'' from the minister to transfer the funds. On Friday night, the police arrested Padmanabha and Parashuram G.

The political fallout of Nagendra's resignation

Chandrashekaran’s suicide and its aftermath came in as a handy weapon for the BJP to demand Nagendra's resignation. In the resulting uproar, the Karnataka government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case, and the Union Bank of India has handed over the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Initially, both Siddaramaiah and deputy CM DK Shivakumar came to Nagendra’s defence stating that they would wait till the SIT submits its report. However, when the chorus by the BJP grew louder with a threat of state-wide agitation and the CBI’s involvement, Siddaramaiah sought Nagendra's resignation.

Nagendra was with the BJP earlier and was a close aide of tainted mining baron and MLA G Janardhana Reddy, the accused in the aforementioned illegal mining case. Nagendra joined the Congress in 2018.

For the BJP, Nagendra's resignation is seen as a way to settle scores with the Congress, who had clamoured for then minister KS Eshwarappa's resignation. In April 2022, Santosh Patil, a contractor from Belagavi, allegedly died by suicide. In an alleged suicide note that surfaced after his death, Patil accused Eshwarappa of demanding a 40 per cent bribe on a completed contract in Hindalga in Belagavi district. Patil, who was an office-bearer of the Hindutva outfit Hindu Vahini, had gone missing on April 11, 2022, and his body was found in a lodge in Udupi the next day.

The Bommai government handed over the case to a SIT for investigation, but the Congress, which was then in the opposition, vehemently demanded Eshwarappa's resignation. In July 2022, the police filed a `B' report (closure) before the court, which means it has been closed for the want of evidence, clearing Eshwarappa of suspicion by the police.

Prof Muzaffar H Assadi, political analyst and dean, faculty of arts, Mysore University termed the case against Nagendra as “a daylight robbery”. “One person will not have the powers to withdraw such a huge amount as permission from higher-ups is required. The swindling of funds could be hierarchical corruption,'' he said.

“The issue will not cause a dent in the Congress government as the matter has been neutralised following Nagendra's resignation. The assembly session is meeting in July and if Nagendra had continued in the government, the opposition could have stalled business in the House.”

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