Prime Minister Narendra Modi prides himself that he prefers to act than react with words.
During the last seven years the prime minister has received thousands of complaints of corruption against ministers and officials. Only when central agencies register cases and conduct raids on politicians, officials and businessmen, it becomes known that the Prime Minister's Office has done its own investigation and given the green signal. Further, the government has compulsorily retired IAS, IPS and IRS officials who had serious corruption charges.
Modi has also stated more than once that he would not transfer an official to another post, as it would mean punishing the new department to which the official is transferred. He prefers the big chop for those who show no signs of reforming.
BJP ministers escape scrutiny?
But the opposition has been vocal that Modi becomes blindsided when there are allegations against BJP ministers at the centre and states. There are only a very few instances of BJP ministers resigning on corruption charges. One such case being that of senior Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse, who was removed from the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition ministry headed by Devendra Fadnavis in 2016, after he was accused of corruption and nepotism.
When there were complaints of unpopularity and corruption against the Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat, the BJP high command removed the chief minister, deputy chief minister and all ministers and brought in a new team last year.
During the last seven years, the Central cabinet has seen high-profile exits, including removal of six ministers who had commanded powerful portfolios last year. But neither the prime minister nor his party gave any explanation for the action, sticking to the line that it was the prime minister's prerogative.
Charges of Karnataka contractors
The reluctance to act against tainted BJP ministers was evident in Karnataka as contractors associations wrote repeatedly about high corruption in the cabinets of chief ministers B S Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai.
The contractors were interested parties themselves in contracts worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore awarded by the state government and its corporations every year. This is in addition to the corruption in transactions like land registration, power connections and liquor distribution involving citizens. One association announced it had written to Modi that even after paying 40 per cent of the contract amount as bribes, the bills were not being settled by a majority of ministers. Even though the ministers, several of whom are Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) defectors lured by the BJP to form the government, were first rattled, but then it was business as usual since there was neither action nor caution from the high command, despite complaint being addressed to the prime minister.
Now such a complaint as led to the forced resignation of party heavyweight K S Eshwarappa from the Bommai ministry. Bommai publicly stuck with the minister's version that it was a voluntary gesture. But the minister's supporters were angry that it was Bommai as finance minister who had tightened the money pipe, leading to withholding of contractors' payments including that of Santhosh Patil, a BJP member who killed himself after accusing Eshwarappa of blocking payment for want of commission. But those who believe nothing moves in the BJP without the nod of PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah believe the nod for registering a case of abetment to suicide against Eshwarappa had come from Delhi.
For the Karnataka unit of the Congress, which had faced the BJP aggression on hijab and other issues of faith, corruption of the BJP government became a handy subject to hold an agitation. With just a year left for state elections it is to be seen what public steps the BJP high command takes to get rid of the '40 percent' label against the Bommai government.