Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s watch continues to eat up the time of the government and the media as the Opposition raised the issue in the Assembly for the second day on Wednesday.
For over three weeks, a significant chunk of headlines in the Karnataka media has been about the watch, which is said to cost several lakh rupees.
According to the Code of Conduct drawn up by the Union Home Ministry, ministers either at the centre or in the state are prohibited from accepting gifts from anyone.
However, this is not the first time that such a controversy is breaking out in Karnataka, over a watch. Soon after he was made minister in the Gundu Rao government, CM Ibrahim was forced to resign from the cabinet after he began to boast that a Rolex watch he had received would empower him to travel across West Asia without a visa.
However, three weeks have passed and the watch controversy around Siddaramaiah shows no sign of dying down as the opposition parties keep the decibel levels up, on the subject in the Assembly.
Here’s what happened and when:
January 24: HD Kumaraswamy makes a passing remark saying CM is not a simple man as he wears costly watches. He said Siddaramaih shouldn’t call himself a socialist as his watch costs Rs 70 lakh.
January 27: JD(S) chief and former CM Kumaraswamy addresses rally in Bidar saying CM Siddaramaiah should not call himself a socialist as he wears a watch worth a whopping Rs 70 lakhs.
February 9: JD(S) leaders released two videos- one from a Dubai watch showroom and another of Siddaramaiah wearing the watch.
February 17: RTI activist S Bhaskaran approached governor Vajubhai R Vala, seeking sanction to prosecute Siddaramaiah under the Prevention of Corruption Act over the luxury watch. In a letter to the governor, Bhaskaran sought permission for prosecution as the CM had accepted an expensive gift.
February 20: Karnataka state president of the BJP, Prahlad Joshi wrote a letter to the Enforcement Directorate, Department of Revenues, Govt. of India to enquire into the matters relating to the controversial watch used by CM Siddaramaiah purportedly worth Rs 70 lakh.
February 20: Congress MLA Ugrappa releases documents of luxury watches and cars that Kumaraswamy and his son own. He claims that the watch was a gift and CM would reveal details about it soon.
February 25: Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah revealed that the expensive watch was gifted to him by his close friend, Dubai-based Gopal Pillai Girish Chandra Verma. It was gifted to him when Varma, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Dubai visited India in July 2015.
February 26: "I will not wear the watch which was gifted to me. I will hand it over to the government to preserve it as a state asset. I will also pay gift tax on the watch."
February 27: HD Kumaraswamy has alleged that the watch is actually a stolen property from the house of a NRI-returned doctor Sudhakar Shetty. The doctor has filed a theft case to this effect at Cubbon Park Police Station on July 7, 2015.
Feb 28 CM plays caste card, says he is being targeted because he is from a backward class community. Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba.
Former CM and leader of opposition in the Karnataka Assembly Jagadish Shettar on Wednesday said that Siddaramaiah cannot assume nobody will question if he claimed the watch was a second-hand watch. Even if it is second hand, it could be worth lakhs.
“According to the code of conduct, any gift more than 5000, should be declared or registered. There should be a probe into how and why the Dubai based cardiothoracic surgeon Girish Varma bought this watch for CM? There should be an investigation into Kuwait returned retd. doctor Sudhakar Shetty's case too,” he added.
“Kumaraswamy alleged that the Hublot watch that Siddaramaiah was wearing was stolen from Dr. Sudhakar Shetty's house in May 2015. Girish is 12 years younger than Siddaramaiah and they being good friends since they were young is just absurd. Girish Verma should give affidavit of the watch,” he concluded.