Former Karnataka chief minister and state BJP President BS Yeddyurappa (left)
The BJP-Congress tussle ahead of general elections takes a new turn as Cogress latter seeks to utilise the controversial image of former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to substantiate its “Chowkidar chor hai” campaign
The perception battle being fought between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress has now taken a new turn.
The Congress has utilised the controversial image of former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to substantiate its “Chowkidar chor hai” campaign by picking up a report in a reputed magazine published from Delhi.
The Caravan on March 22 carried a report titled ‘The Yeddy Diaries’ which alleged that Yeddyurappa had given money to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore to the top leaders of the BJP, some of whom are senior ministers in the central government today. The time when the money was allegedly given appears to be when Yeddyurappa was the chief minister between May 2008 and August 2011.
Those whose names are mentioned in this diary, as reported by the magazine, include senior leaders like LK Advani (Rs 50 crores) and Murli Manohar Joshi (Rs 50 crores) and incumbent union ministers Arun Jaitley (Rs 150 crores), Rajnath Singh (100 crores), Nitin Gadkari (Rs 150 crores plus Rs 10 crores for his son’s wedding). All of them were paid this money to facilitate Yeddyurappa becoming the chief minister, the magazine alleged the diary as saying.
Apart from this list, the magazine has put out images of the notes which mention names of MLAs who were lured when Yeddyurappa had led the BJP to power in the 2008 assembly election. The report also mentions payments being made to judges and lawyers, but no names have been taken.
Yeddyurappa, however, appeared his angry self before the media to dismiss the charge as “baseless, irrelevant and malicious allegations”.’
“The Congress party and its leaders are bankrupt of issues and ideas…The IT department officials have already probed the issue to find that the documents and signatures and handwritten notes are forged ones,” Yeddyurappa read out from a prepared statement.
The Congress, however, at a press conference in Delhi demanded that the allegations in the report be referred as the first case to India’s newly appointed corruption ombudsman, the Lokpal. Congress and the BJP spokespersons traded allegations all through Friday in Delhi.
The magazine claimed that its report was based on the diary which IT officials found when they raided Congress trouble-shooter and Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar. The raids took place when Shivakumar was hosting Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were allegedly being targeted for poaching during earlier Rajya Sabha elections, when BJP President Amit Shah was one of the candidates.
How did notes by Yeddyurappa land up with DK Shivakumar?
Shivakumar reportedly told the IT officials that he had many sources to get information, which he had got in order to raise it in the appropriate forum. But, the magazine has reported that Shivakumar got possession of these notes because the personal assistants of Yeddyurappa and his arch rival from Shivamogga, KS Eshwarappa, had fallen out.
There is also another dimension to the story behind notes which were allegedly duly signed by Yeddyurappa in his own diary. In February 2017, Yeddyurappa and late union minister HN Ananth Kumar, were caught on camera at a party event talking about how much money had been paid to the party’s central leadership by the former.
The context was a controversy in which the BJP was trying to pin charges on the then Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, that he had paid Rs 1,000 crore to the Congress high command. The Congress government referred the voice samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory and, some months later, it was confirmed that the voices were, indeed, of the two BJP leaders.
The magazine and the IT Department versions
“A senior income tax official took copies of Yeddyurappa’s diary entries to the finance minister Arun Jaitley, along with an unsigned cover note. The senior IT official asked in the note whether further investigation by the Enforcement Directorate–India’s top law enforcement agency for financial and economic crimes—was viable. But Jaitley, who is named in the entries as having allegedly received Rs 150 crores from Yeddyurappa, chose not to act on the income tax official’s note. Jaitley was in charge of the Karnataka BJP between 2004 and 2013 and oversaw the party’s state unit during the elections held in this period,” the magazine said.
The IT department, on the other hand, issued a statement two days before (March 20) the report appeared in The Caravan, based apparently on some chatter on social media. According to its statement, Yeddyurappa had reportedly told the IT department officials that he was not in the habit of writing a diary and the content was fabricated.
The IT department sent his handwriting sample to the FSL, Hyderabad. But the FSL could not proceed because it wanted the original document, which Shivakumar was unable to provide. “The same loose sheets prima facie appear to be of doubtful nature and were given by the person who was being raided for tax violations,’’ the statement said.
The Congress took up this magazine report immediately after Prime Minister Narendra Modi used a statement by Dr Sam Pitroda, chairman of the Overseas Indian National Congress and the man who brought the telecom revolution in India, to tweet that the “Opposition insults our forces time and again. I appeal to my fellow Indians – question Opposition leaders on their statements. Tell them – 130 crore Indians will not forgive or forget the Opposition for their antics. India stands firmly with our forces.”
Modi’s tweet was in response to a statement by Pitroda saying ““I would like to know a little more because I read reports in the New York Times and other newspapers. Did we really attack? We really killed 300 people? I don’t know that. As a citizen, I am entitled to know and if I ask it is my duty to ask, that doesn’t mean I’m not a nationalist. That doesn’t mean I am on this side or that side. We need to know the facts. If you say 300 people were killed, I need to know that. We all need to know that, people of India need to know that and then comes global media which says nobody was killed. I look bad as an Indian citizen.”
It is clear now that both the BJP and the Congress are waging a perception battle over two narratives. The Congress is playing the “Chowkidar chor hai” theme when it is badgered by the BJP’s agenda of nationalism. As Dr Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of the Jain University, Bengaluru, put it, “It is a perception battle being fought. It is different in the Hindi heartland and the south is seeing it differently.’’