Bengaluru: Amid growing criticism over his appointment as forest minister as there are several cases pending against him, including under the Karnataka Forest Act, Anand Singh on Friday said he is ready, if Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa wants to change his portfolio.
Accepting that there are 15 cases pending against him, the MLA from Vijayanagara in mine-rich Ballari district also said anyone can go through the charge sheets and find out whether there are any direct charges against him.
Claiming that the cases against him were “minor violations”, he had earlier linked them to traffic violations by a vehicle owner.
“If Chief Minister Yediyurappa feels that because of my continuing as forest minister, Karnataka’s forests will get looted, will get destroyed, and wants to change my portfolio, I’m ready to change my portfolio,” he said.
According to Singh, of the 15 cases pending against him, 12 have been stayed by court while three are under trial.
“What Opposition leaders are saying and what I have submitted to the Election Commission is true — that there are 15 cases against me.
“I will never do politics by keeping people of Karnataka in the dark, but media friends and Opposition leaders have to thoroughly examine the charges against me,” Singh said.
Speaking to reporters, he said “Many of them (Opposition leaders) are advocates, they have to go through the chargesheets against me, if there are direct charges against me, the media can question me.”
Singh’s statement has come at a time when there is speculation within BJP circles about Yediyurappa contemplating on changing his portfolio, after drawing flak from various quarters.
The Congress has hit out at chief minister for appointing Singh, a businessman with mining interests, as Forest minister and threatened to raise the issue during the upcoming assembly session.
Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said if one is giving the ministership of a department under which he is facing cases, it will look like government is openly supporting corruption.
He demanded that either the chief minister has to immediately change his portfolio, or Singh himself should resign.
Terming Yediyurappa’s decision as wrong as there are cases against Singh under the very department he will be heading, KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao said his portfolios should be changed immediately, or else it will lead to suspicion.
“It is the Chief Minister’s duty to showcase transparency and honesty in the administration,” he said, adding that his party will raise the issue in the assembly, if the action is not taken immediately.
Several Twitter users have also opposed Singh being made the forest minister, pointing out a conflict of interest.
An online petition has also been started, demanding that the Yediyurappa drop him immediately.
Singh, one among the newly elected BJP legislators after defecting from Congress and facing disqualification, was inducted into the ministry by Yediyurappa on 6 February and initially given the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs portfolio on 10 February.
Buckling under pressure from some newly inducted ministers, reportedly including Singh, who were unhappy with portfolios allocated to them, the chief minister the very next day reallocated certain portfolios, which included appointing him as Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment.
However, Singh on his part has maintained that the portfolio was allocated to him by the chief minister and that he did not ask for it.
Singh’s election affidavit filed ahead of the December 2019 bypolls says he has 15 cases pending against him, as also offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, to be read with violations of the Karnataka Forest Act.
He was arrested by CBI in 2013 in connection with alleged illegal export of iron ore from Belikeri port in Karnataka, and in 2015 by the Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Lokayukta on charges of illegal transportation of iron ore.
Two of Singh’s cabinet colleagues Laxman Savadi and CT Ravi have come out in his defence, stating that cases against him were still being probed and not proven.
Singh, who was a close associate of tainted mining baron G Janardhana Reddy, was in the Congress party before defecting to the BJP recently.
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