With the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka buffeted by allegations of corruption in the transfer and postings of bureaucrats, a worried Congress central leadership stepped in on Wednesday and read the state ministers the riot act. The ministers were told that there would be zero tolerance for corruption.
The Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP have been attacking the Karnataka government and accusing its ministers of running a cash-for-transfer scam. JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy displayed a sheet of paper in the Assembly on July 4 and mentioned different “rates” for transfers of officials in a particular department.
Sources said the corruption issue came up for discussion at a meeting of senior Karnataka leaders called by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. The meeting was also attended by senior leader Rahul Gandhi and was called to discuss the preparations for the Lok Sabha elections. Many leaders complained that some of the ministers were inaccessible.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala, besides 30 other leaders, were at the meeting.
“Rahul told Siddaramiah and D K Shivakumar that we have come to power fighting against corruption and that all ministers be told that there will be zero tolerance for corruption. It was a strict warning,” a leader who attended the meeting told The Indian Express. Kharge said the “historic mandate also brings in a huge responsibility,” the leader added.
Sources said the leadership also held a separate meeting with the Siddaramiah, Shivakumar, and state ministers.
They also said that many leaders at the meeting complained that “many of the ministers are not available for workers”. When AICC general secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal pointed out that ministers have busy schedules, those who complained countered by saying that workers cannot be ignored. Venugopal then said the ministers should keep a day free for workers.
“Together, we are scripting a new chapter of progress and welfare for 6.5 crore Kannadigas. We are tirelessly working towards fulfilling our five solemn guarantees, all of which are in advanced stages of implementation,” Kharge said in a Twitter post after the meeting.
“A historic mandate also brings in a huge responsibility. We are confident that the people of Karnataka will also repose their faith in the Congress party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” the Congress chief said. He also said Karnataka trusts the party’s “welfare-oriented governance and development paradigm”.
Briefing reporters later, Surjewala said the party had prepared a strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. He said the party had decided to put a minister and a senior leader each in charge of every Lok Sabha seat. He said the party’s target was winning at least 20 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. It was also decided that the party would reach out to every beneficiary of the five guarantee schemes the government has promised.