For many months, Bengaluru’s Development Minister KG George simply never cared about opposition to the controversial steel flyover project proposed in the city.
While consistently backing the project, he did not care about the environment, he did not care about the reckless felling of trees, he did not care about the huge escalation in costs, he did not care about the viability of the project and he also ridiculed the citizens’ protests at every stage.
But everything changed on Thursday.
“We are cancelling the steel flyover project because of the public opinion that they do not want it,” George announced to the media.
The opposition from citizen groups had surely put the government in a spot, but even when those voices had peaked last year, George was unrelenting. So, what changed now? Why did KJ George make a dramatic announcement on Thursday scrapping the controversial project?
What was noticeable in George’s press meet was his anger towards the BJP in general, Yeddyurappa and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar in particular.
“The project was proposed during Sadananda Gowda's time. That time the BJP was all for the flyover. Now despite knowing the difficulty faced by so many residents, they are saying that the project is a bad one. Rajeev Chandrasekhar started this blame game. I am placing the blame on his shoulder if Bengaluru's traffic problem is note solved,” George said.
Last week, BJP state President BS Yeddyurappa had alleged that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with his aides, George et al, had received Rs 150 crore kickback for the decision to go ahead with the steel flyover project.
The former CM of Karnataka and the BJP state President alleged that Siddaramaiah’s government had sent a total of Rs 1,000 crore to Congress leaders in New Delhi.
“The Rs 150 crore, was a part of the Rs 1,000 crore sent to the Congress leaders in New Delhi. There is a mention of a Rs 150-crore deal with middlemen for the steel flyover project that was already received,” Yeddyurappa had told media persons, while adding that Siddaramaiah must resign if the allegations were proved right.
Yeddyurappa further claimed that this information was penned down in a Congress MLC’s diary, whose house was raided by the Income Tax Department last year.
On February 23, a copy of the ‘explosive’ diary, which was allegedly found in MLC Govindaraju’s house during an I-T raid in March 2016, was circulated to a few TV channels.
The channels reported that kickbacks were allegedly paid to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and party treasurer Motilal Vohra by state Congress leaders.
The contents of the diary had initials along with the amount paid by said individuals to the party high command, media reports suggested.
On February 16, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote to the state Lokayukta seeking to initiate suo moto proceedings against the issues of corruption and corrupt practices associated with the steel flyover project. He wanted the Lokayukta to ensure that the guilty public servants are tried for various offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; the Indian Penal Code, 1860; and other applicable laws.
On Thursday, George said, “I will resign if you can prove that I took bribes for the steel flyover issue. I have not taken a single rupee. Don't think that we will get scared if you bring in the CBI. Prove that I have taken a bribe then the very next minute I will cancel the steel flyover project.”
George’s resignation may or may not come. Or it could come and be taken back at a convenient date. But, one thing is for sure; the corruption charges spooked the Congress. The Congress high command wanted the mess to be cleaned up, leaving leaders like George to eat humble pie.