Following L. Govindaraju's arrest on Saturday, the Lokayukta police have been flooded with complaints not only from builders accusing the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike councillor of extortion but also BBMP staff who say they were pressured by him.
The Lokayukta police investigative team heard complainants who accused Mr. Govindraraju — who is said to have spent Rs. 2 crore to get himself elected — of harassment. One among those is a well-known person from Katriguppe, who had to pay up so that his construction work could go on.
BBMP personnel have also accused the Congress councillor of coercing them. They alleged he has been using mestris and gangmen of BBMP's engineering wing to threaten builders and obstruct their work. Unable to bear this pressure, several personnel opted to work outside Mr. Govindraju's ward, said a senior BBMP official.
Builder Udayakumar, the complainant in the present case, started construction of his building in Katriguppe a year ago. Mr. Govindaraju turned up at the site during the last week of May when three floors had already come up. The councillor, according to the complaint, accused Mr. Udayakumar of violating building bylaws and demanded Rs. 2 lakh to get necessary permission from the BBMP.
On July 7, BBMP's engineering wing personnel seized the construction material and asked Mr. Udayakumar to meet the councillor to “get the necessary clearance”. During the subsequent meeting, Mr. Govindaraju allegedly demanded Rs. 8 lakh. The builder coughed up Rs. 2 lakh. He then recorded his conversation with Mr. Govindaraju and handed over the recording along with a complaint to the Lokayukta police on Saturday.
The Lokayukta police team arrested Mr. Govindaraju in his house and later recovered the construction articles seized by the BBMP. The councillor was booked under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and produced before the Special Court for Lokayukta cases, and he was remanded in judicial custody.
As soon as the news of his arrest spread, several of his supporters thronged the Lokayukta office. The institution, which faced a similar situation following the arrest of BJP MLA Y. Sampangi, was better prepared this time and stopped them at the entrance.
Mayor S.K. Nataraj said he would consult legal experts and then write to the Government to cancel Mr. Govindaraju's council membership. “As per the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act 1976, the Government can advise the State Election Commission to cancel the membership,” he said.
M. Nagaraj, Opposition leader in the BBMP Council, said he had recommended the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee to cancel Mr. Govindaraju's party membership. Asked if similar punishment would be meted out to Congress councillor Munirathna, who has been indicted by the Lokayukta for contractual lapses in construction of a compound wall on Bellary Road which caused the death of schoolgirl Sanjana Singh, Mr. Nagaraj said: “The party will form a committee to decide on the action.”