Accused linked to extortion racket opens up, says Lokayukta set-up is neck deep in corruption
‘Top babus flocked to meet Ashwin sir’
The Lokayukta affair just got murkier. V Bhaskar alias Nivarana Bhaskar, whose name has been prominently linked to the extortion syndicate that demanded bribes from government officials by threatening them with Lokayukta raids, has begun to sing.
In an interview to Kannada television channel Suvarna 24×7 on Friday, Bhaskar laid bare the allegedly deep-rooted rot in the State Lokayukta, thickening the plot with potentially explosive revelations of family links and painting a picture of corruption at the top-most levels in the bureaucracy and administration.
Bhaskar boasted of his proximity to Ashwin Rao, son of Lokayukta, Y Bhaskar Rao. “He is not Ashwin Rao, he is Yerrabati Ashwin. I was introduced to him by Upa Lokayukta Justice Subhash B Adi’s son-in-law Ganagadhar Swamy, a KAS officer.” Bhaskar has been a familiar face in the BBMP office for the past two decades where he is known as an RTI activist-cum-self-styled journo-cum-tout. But he’s definitely not earned himself any brownie points. In fact, BBMP employees recently went on a day’s strike, claiming he was “harassing” them using RTI applications. A case was booked at Ulsoorgate Police station against him.
The man, though, portrays himself as the victim. “I was facing harassment from all quarters, I needed a godfather. After I began to work for Ashwin Sir, my troubles ended. Whenever Ashwin Sir came to Bengaluru, I used to pick him up from the airport in my car. I helped him in his vintage car business. He used to introduce me as his secretary.”
Bhaskar says being known as ‘Ashwin sir’s secretary’ turned around things. “Even IAS officers began to respect me and offer a seat in their car. They even responded to my missed calls.”
On the wheeling-dealing behind the scenes, he says PAs of ministers used to meet Ashwin. “I won’t say where, but 15 days ago, a person wearing a helmet came on a two-wheeler. He handed me his card to be given to Ashwin sir. On seeing it, I figured the person was a top bureaucrat. Even principal secretaries thronged to meet Ashwin sir.”
In an ominous suggestion, he said, “Corruption is rampant in the entire Lokayukta institution. Nobody is above board there. I know everything.” However, he has not clearly said Ashwin took money from anyone. He claims he was only reflecting on the state of affairs in the Lokayukta office. He has said that Ashwin visited the Lokayukta office. “With CCTVs and cameras watching every movement, this fact cannot be hidden. Whenever Ashwin sir visited the Lokayukta office, he used to sit in Joint Commissioner Syed Riyaz Ahmed’s chamber (the same chamber in front of which Krishna Rao, purportedly Ashwin, made the bribe demand of Rs 1 crore from executive engineer M N Krishnamurti),” Bhaskar stated, exposing the association between Riyaz and Ashwin.
Bhaskar says he was a journalist with a news organisation called IBC and he used his connections to help several builders. “I used to help them get sanctions and approvals for their projects. They paid me consultancy charges.” But jealous detractors pulled him down, he says. That’s when he sought out Ashwin Rao.
Reacting to Bhaskar’s claims, Upa Lokayukta Justice Adi told BM, “My son-in-law Gangadhar Swamy has clarified he has never seen Ashwin. He came to know about the son of the hon’ble Lokayukta only recently after seeing his photograph in various media. The question of introducing somebody to him doesn’t arise. He has not seen Bhaskar either.”
…………………………………………Lokayukta to go on leave?
Bogged down by controversies and mounting pressure to resign, Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao may consider going on long leave. Justice Rao, who so far has clearly refused to resign, is said to be considering the option of going on leave after a delegation led by senior advocate KN Subba Reddy asked him to do so.
The delegation met Justice Rao on Friday. Reddy, leading the delegation which pursued the demand for Justice Rao’s resignation in the wake of an FIR filed against the Lokayukta’s son Ashwin, said Justice Rao was considering the option.
“We met him again today with the same demand – asking him to resign. We told the Lokayukta that he should either resign or consider going on a long leave – at least for 15 days – in the wake of the ongoing protests and increasing demand for his resignation. Former Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde too has said that he should either resign or go on leave. Hence, we told the same to him today (Friday). Till yesterday, he clearly denied resigning. Today, he was a bit soft and paid heed to our words – to go on leave at least for 15 days. He said he would look into it. However, he said he was hurt and would resign once the special investigation team (SIT) report comes out – be it in his favour or against. He listened to us patiently and said he would give a serious thought to our advice when we told him that his being in office amidst the protests would only create more problems,” Reddy told Bangalore Mirror.
Read: Lokayukta police close in on the ‘troika’
Read: Officials who paid up, under scanner