‘A Rs 4,000-cr scandal’ — Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, his wife & loyalists in eye of MUDA ‘scam’ storm

‘A Rs 4,000-cr scandal’ — Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, his wife & loyalists in eye of MUDA ‘scam’ storm

Bengaluru: During his tenure as the chief minister of Karnataka — in the current term and the previous one — Siddaramaiah has rarely been faced with allegations of corruption, unlike his aides or the ministers in the government led by him, until now.

The Congress leader and his wife, Parvathi, are now being accused by the Opposition of benefitting via an “illegal” compensatory land deal from Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had lost the 2023 Karnataka assembly elections and some of its seats to the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections in the state, is calling it a “Rs 4,000 crore scandal” and demanding a CBI probe. CM Siddaramaiah, in response, has said that the allegations are “politically motivated”. 

“BJP is being tutored by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to take this up,” Siddaramaiah told reporters Thursday.

The CM’s wife owns about 3 acres and 16 gunthas of land at Kesare in Mysuru, near the Outer Ring Road of the city, about 140 km from Bengaluru.

This land, according to Siddaramaiah, was given to his wife by her brother through a gift deed. However, this land, he says, was “encroached” on by MUDA, and converted into plots, parks and distributed in accordance with its policy.

MUDA was established by the Government of Karnataka for the planned development of major and important areas of Mysuru. It builds new localities, and then auctions or allots the converted land to the public.

In Siddaramaiah’s case, MUDA had decided to give land-for-land compensation under its contentious 50:50 rule in 2021.

The chief minister said that MUDA admitted to “illegal encroachment” on his wife’s land.

Under the 50:50 scheme that was introduced in November 2020, land losers are entitled to 50 percent of the developed sites, which may not necessarily be in the same location, while the other half is retained by MUDA. The Siddaramaiah government did away with this rule in October 2023.

It is being alleged that a number of people were given larger sites than they were entitled to, and that many were given land in localities where the value of land was higher than the areas where the layouts were drawn, implying massive losses for the civic body.

“High-value plots were given to the CM’s family as compensation for land, which had very little value,” claimed a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.

Siddaramaiah told the media that it was MUDA’s decision to allot plots in a location of its choice and that his family made no such requests.

The BJP has also alleged similar allotments to loyalists of the chief minister, pegging the extent of the ‘scam’ at Rs 4,000 crore.

Also Read: In Siddaramaiah or Shivakumar debate, forum of backward communities throws weight behind Karnataka CM

Value of the land in question

Siddaramaiah’s wife received 14 plots or sites, measuring up to a total of 38,264 sq ft — less than one acre — in compensation for 3.16 acres, he said. One acre of land is equal to around 43,560 sq ft.

The BJP has claimed that Siddaramaiah’s family received plots in localities with higher value of land, shooting up the value of the asset, when compared to the actual land in Kesare.

By the chief minister’s own admission, his 3.16 acres was valued at Rs 62 crore, which is lower than that of the compensatory plots he has received.

“They (MUDA) made this into sites, parks and distributed. So, should we let go of our 3.16 acres just because I am the CM?” Siddaramaiah told reporters. He then asked for compensation for his 3.16 acres according to market rate (Rs 62 crore) and that he would return the plots, which were of lower value.

He pointed out that the BJP was in power in 2021, when he received the plots in return for the “encroachment” under the 50:50 scheme.

“They (BJP) gave us this (land), and they are now levelling allegations,” Siddaramaiah remarked.

‘Corruption’ in Karnataka

According to a 2017 survey by Centre for Media Studies — the CMS-India Corruption Study — Karnataka was deemed the most corrupt state in the country. This was when Siddaramaiah was in the fourth year of his first term as the chief minister. At the time, he had rubbished the survey.

B.Y. Vijayendra, the state BJP president Thursday said that the Congress had come to power by assuring the people of a “corruption-free administration”.

“In the last one year, there have been corruption scandals coming to light every day. It won’t be wrong to say that the real face of the Congress has been revealed,” Vijayendra said at the party’s state executive committee meeting in Bengaluru.

Notably, the Congress had targeted the then Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government over bribery and graft allegations with campaigns like “PayCM” in the run-up to the 2023 assembly elections.

The BJP has now hit back, holding protests and turning up the heat on Siddaramaiah’s government. One member of the Congress government has resigned since the party stormed to power in last year’s elections. 

B. Nagendra, Karnataka’s minister for Scheduled Tribes Welfare, youth empowerment and sport, resigned in the first week of June after allegations of illegal transfer of funds from the state-run Karnataka Maharshi Valmiki Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation Limited.

In early 2016, Siddaramaiah, a self-proclaimed socialist leader, had come under scrutiny for flaunting a diamond-studded Hublot watch, costing around Rs 60-70 lakh. Siddaramaiah had, at the time, said that he had received it as a gift from a doctor friend in Dubai, but later decided to hand over the watch to the assembly speaker, Kagodu Thimappa, and declare it a state asset.

(Edited by Mannat Chugh)

Also Read: Siddaramaiah govt yet to firm up education policy. ‘Disparity in 3- or 4-yr courses is confusing’


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