Report on Sasikala's 'Rs 2 crore bribe for VIP treatment' could be weapon for her rivals, but facts don't add up
It is spicy fare as the IPS officer has claimed that AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, who is convict number 9234, after having been sentenced to four years imprisonment in the Disproportionate Assets case, gets special facilities inside jail.
For those who always suspected that something was cooking inside the Parapana Agrahara, the central prison in Bengaluru, the nine-page report by D Roopa, DIG (Prisons) in Karnataka has provided the menu. It is spicy fare as the IPS officer has claimed that AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, who is convict number 9234, after having been sentenced to four years imprisonment in the Disproportionate Assets case, gets special facilities inside jail.
What's more, Roopa's letter, written in Kannada, mentions that rumours are floating around that Rs 2 crore was paid as bribe to the prison officials for the favour of setting up a special kitchen for Sasikala, where food for her is cooked by an inmate inside the women's barracks. The bombshell in her letter is that she names her boss, DGP (Prisons) Satyanarayana Rao as one of the recipients of the bribe.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has now ordered a high-level inquiry into the allegations of irregularities and has promised strict action against anyone found to be indulging in wrongdoing. A month after a sting operation had some AIADMK MLAs claiming that bribes were paid to them by Sasikala group inside the Golden Resort near Chennai to make them vote for the Edappadi Palaniswami government in the Tamil Nadu assembly, Sasikala has been hit by yet another bribery allegation.
It is obvious that allegations of such a serious nature by an officer of the rank of DIG can hardly be taken lightly. But the manner in which Rao has reacted to Roopa's allegations suggests intra-departmental politics and raises the doubt whether Sasikala is suffering collateral damage.
The report was written after Roopa inspected the central prison on 10 July, after which the DGP issued her a show-cause notice. That raises eyebrows because surely as DIG (Prisons), Roopa is within her rights to check out the barracks. The DIG, in turn, accused her superior of interfering in her work ever since she took charge last month. The DGP gave a sarkaari explanation accusing her of visiting the prison, skipping a meeting called by the chief minister at the same time. He also asks if three weeks into her post is good enough time for her to unearth so many irregularities and damn everyone in the prison security system.
The primary purpose of Roopa's visit was to subject the inmates to a drug test for which she had carried a testing kit with her. Her suspicion that drugs are smuggled into the jail came true as of the 25 inmates who were subjected to drug test, 18 were found to have indulged in substance abuse. Roopa, who is a 2000 batch IPS officer, mentions the details in her report. It was then that Roopa reportedly happened to find the special facility for Sasikala.
Rao's defence is that food is delivered to Sasikala and her sister-in-law Ilavarasi in a secure form to ensure there is no attempt to poison them inside central prison. That relations between the two senior officers are anything but cordial from the fact that Rao, in a fit of pique has asked the media to "go, check her history". Claiming that her report is a "conspiracy" to tarnish his name, Rao asked if rumours ever find their way into an official report.
Rao has a pertinent point. If Roopa had no evidence to back her sensational claim that obviously throws mud at Rao, mentioning it as part of an official report was anything but fair as it dents his reputation. Rao also claims no report has been given to him or anyone in the government, accusing her of going to the media instead. Roopa's defence is that she has mentioned that these are rumours and she was not making any allegations.
What this public spat proves is that all is not well inside Parappana Agrahara. The DGP refutes any irregularities inside prison, arguing that when he inspected it last, he did not find anything amiss. Rao, however, concedes that there are many drug addicts within jail and it is tough to monitor and control the smuggling of ganja that takes place.
Roopa wants a fact-finding committee to be instituted into the rumours that Sasikala was getting special attention after paying a bribe. This could land Sasikala's nephew TTV Dinakaran in trouble because he is the only family member who has met her so far and on several occasions. If indeed a bribe was paid, the needle of suspicion will point to him, which means he could be under the radar for yet another bribery case. In April, he was arrested on charges of bribing an Election Commission official to get the two leaves symbol for the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK. He got out on bail after close to 40 days in Tihar jail, with no sign of the Delhi Police cracking the case.
The report could also be used in the conspiratorial world of Tamil Nadu politics to fix political rivals. Most believe Chennai will witness a political upheaval soon after the Presidential elections, in which all three factions of the AIADMK - Panneerselvam, Palaniswami and Dinakaran - are voting for the NDA candidate, Ram Nath Kovind.
The report may now be perused by the Home Secretary after which a decision will be taken on the nature of probe to be initiated. A month after a sting operation had some AIADMK MLAs claiming that bribes were paid to them by Sasikala group inside the Golden Resort near Chennai to make them vote for the Edappadi Palaniswami government in the Tamil Nadu assembly, Sasikala has been hit by yet another bribery allegation.
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