Days ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, a political controversy erupted on Friday after a media report titled 'The Yeddy Diaries' published by news magazine 'The Caravan' alleged that former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa paid Rs 1,800 crore to some top BJP leaders with the Congress daring the government to order an investigation by the newly-appointed Lokpal.
The BJP refuted the allegations as "baseless".
The report alleged that Yeddyurappa paid as much as Rs 1,800 crore to top BJP leaders, including veterans L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari. The report also carried published handwritten notes purportedly written by Yeddyurappa.
Addressing reporters, Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala demanded to know who the "beneficiaries" of the money paid by Yeddyurappa were, saying, "It is a fit case to be investigated by the newly constituted Lokpal."
"There is an allegation of bribe of Rs 1,800 crore on the top BJP leadership. Is it true or false? The diary with B.S. Yeddyurappa's sign on it was with the Income Tax Department since 2017. If that is the case why did Modi ji and BJP not get it investigated?" Surjewala asked.
"Prima facie, this is a case of investigating all BJP leaders, right from the Prime Minister. It is a fit case to be investigated by the newly appointed Lokpal," he said.
The Congress leader claimed that the I-T department approached Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to find out whether there should be an inquiry but nothing happened.
"We are not here to do mudslinging like the BJP. We are here to tell people," he said.
Reading out a purported conversation between Yeddyurappa and late union minister Ananth Kumar alluding to the bribery, Surjewala said, "The Congress had raised the matter in 2017, when it released a video of conversation between Yeddyurappa and late Union minister Ananth Kumar. The two leaders talked about the money being paid to the top leadership of the BJP."
He said if there is no truth to this diary, then why the BJP did not get an inquiry done.
"If this is true, then is this not a first-hand report of BJP's corruption? Why is there no independent inquiry on this? Now there is also Lok Pal and other independent bodies in place. Chor-chowkidar is answerable for this," he said.
Yeddyurappa refuted the allegations as baseless, saying it "absolute nonsense, disgusting and desperate efforts" by the Congress. He also threatened with a defamation case.
"Prove it at the earliest or face defamation case," he said in Bengaluru.
"Congress and its leaders are bankrupt of issues and ideas. They donot have any development issues to discuss in public. They are frustrated with growing popularity of Prime Minister narendra Modiji and BJP," he said in a statement.
He said the Congress leaders have realized that their defeat in 2019 elections is imminent and have lost the battle before it has begun.
"All the issues being raised by Congress, including one raised by them today about alleged payment of crores of rupees, have been already inquired into. These documents have been found to be fake.
"IT department officials have already probed the issue to find that the documents and signatures and handwritten notes are forged one. Congress leaders who are apt in carrying out all these atrocious and malicious campaigns have planted this story in the media to gain political mileage in the coming elections. The issues raised by Congress leaders are irrelevant and false. The issue is a closed chapter,"
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed the Congress for spreading "a web of lies" and said the Congress is "desperate and has lost its balance".
"Karnataka Congress leader D. Shivakumar has been involved in such allegations in the past and he made his claims on the basis of a sheet of paper. The Income Tax Department department asked him if he had the original copy of the paper, but he could not present it," he said.
"The diary shown was just a photocopy. The Congress has lost his balance and has realized that their defeat in the 2019 elections is imminent. They have lost the battle before it has begun," he said adding that the issue was raised as part of Congress' attempt to divert people's attention from the embarrassment it faced due to remarks made by Sam Pitroda over Pulwama terror attack and Indian Air Force's strike in Balakot.