The Congress today renewed its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, demanding an investigation after a report in news magazine The Caravan alleged "payoffs amounting to over Rs 1,800 crore" by former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to "BJP's national leaders, its central committee, and judges and advocates".
The article, titled "The Yeddy Diaries", claims documents accessed by the magazine show that diary entries - made in BS Yeddyurappa's handwriting in 2009 recording the alleged payouts - have been in the possession of the Income Tax department since 2017. The report also alleges that a senior minister, named in the diary entries as one of the alleged beneficiaries, "chose not to act" when he was alerted by an income tax official. NDTV cannot verify these documents.
Taking a jibe at Mr Yeddyurappa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress tweeted: "Dear diary, it seems my corruption has been caught, I tried to bribe several BJP leaders & now the country knows. I can only hope my Chowkidar protects me like all the other Chors. Yours truly, @BSYBJP#YeddyurappaDiary"
"Prima facie, this is a case of investigating all BJP leaders, right from the PM and downwards. It is a fit case to be investigated by the newly appointed Lokpal," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a press conference, waving a copy of the 'expose'. "The ball is in the PM's court. He must decide whether Chowkidar chor hai ya chowkidar jaanch ke liye taiyaar hai (or the chowkidar is ready for an investigation)," Mr Surjewala added.
Union minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad rubbished the allegations made by Mr Surjewala and claimed that his party was "fully aware of the press conference." He attacked Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and said, "Since morning we were eagerly waiting for his press conference...and if it was such a big expose, why did he personally not address the media?"
Since the Congress is "staring at defeat" in the general elections, the party is "weaving a web of lies", and citing the allegations in the report, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "You can also have a look at the statement issued by CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes), which has already clarified on the issue."
The CBDT statement, refuting The Caravan article, said when confronted in 2017, Mr Yeddyurappa said "he was not in the habit of writing a dairy and that the loose sheets in question were not in his handwriting. He denied his handwriting and signatures on the loose sheets."
"He further stated that contents of the loose sheets were false and fabricated and his name has been used to malign his political career," the statement added.
Today, rejecting the documents cited by the article as "forged", BS Yeddyurappa said, "I am thinking of filing a defamation case...these are false allegations. The I-T department officials had examined and found that the documents and signature are forged...it is politically motivated."
The alleged diary entries include a list of 26 people under "money received/paid to me" with payment amount ranging from Rs 5 crore to Rs 500 crore.