Bengaluru: Did newly appointed forests minister Anand Singh hide his criminal case record from the Election Commission when filing his nomination for the December byelection?
The byelection saw him and 10 other defectors who aided the BJP in toppling the JD(S)-Congress coalition government re-elected.
If a comparison is made between the election affidavit Anand Singh filed for the general elections in 2018--when he contested as a Congress candidate from Vijayanagar (Hospet)--and his documentation for the December 2019 byelection, it is evident that he did not disclose details pertaining to at least 15 cases.
Between 2018 and 2019, he was acquitted in one case.
In the affidavit filed in 2018, Anand Singh mentioned that he had 16 criminal cases pending against him, mostly related to forest encroachment, illegal mining and disappearance of a mine seized at Belikeri port near Karwar.
While most of the cases were filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Lokayukta and the Forest Department, some, including the one pertaining to the disappearance of iron ore from Belikeri, were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Soon after he resigned as a Congress MLA, Anand Singh was acquitted by the Special Court for Elected Representatives, Bengaluru, in a case pertaining to alleged export of 1.3 lakh tonnes of seized iron ore from Belikeri port. The CBI had filed the charge sheet in this case in 2017 and judge Ramachandra D Huddar cited lack of evidence while acquitting him.
However, when Singh filed his nomination papers for the December 2019 byelection, the column in the affidavit pertaining to criminal cases against him was left blank. When the media quizzed him about the pending cases against him, he dismissed it, saying that they were minor cases, like `traffic offences'. He added that he hailed from a mining family, and there are always likely to be some minor cases filed against miners, which should not be taken seriously.
Congress on the offensive
The Congress party has questioned the BJP for appointing Anand Singh as the forest minister despite the several mining cases against him. Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said that while the Supreme Court directed parties to upload details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, the directive had already been torn to shreds by prime minister Narendra Modi.
“Modiji and BJP again come to the rescue of the Ballari Gang! SC says give reasons for giving tickets to tainted Netas or contempt! Modiji says make tainted Netas not MLAs alone but Ministers of the ministry which has been already looted,'' Surjewala tweeted.