- Planned steel bridge aimed to connect Bengaluru to international airport
- Constructing it would have have required chopping of 812 trees
- Citizens, associations had protested against the project
"The steel flyover project is no more, now. We faced many allegations, baseless allegations... Like Sita, I am prepared to face even fire also. If anybody has got any record against us that we are involved in corruption, we will face it," he said, challenging the opposition BJP to prove its charges of corruption and graft.
The Congress government's decision has been linked to huge controversy over an alleged diary found during tax raids on Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's parliamentary secretary K Govindraju last year. The diary allegedly mentions 65 crores against "steel bridge" and the opposition says it is a reference to bribe paid for the project.
But the 6.7 km steel bridge, estimated to cost Rs 1,800 crore, was also firmly opposed by many citizens. It would have required the chopping of 812 trees and Bengaluru residents had managed to get the National Green Tribunal to stop its construction pending an audit. Critics had also alleged a lack of transparency in the commissioning of the project.
After the diary controversy erupted, a section of leaders within the ruling Congress too suggested that the project be scrapped as the gigantic bridge might be seen as a "monument to Congress corruption." State Congress working president, Dinesh Gundu Rao told NDTV, "There is a huge perception created, social media and all, that the Congress is making money out of this. I said we are going in for elections now. So even if we start with good intentions to build the bridge for the sake of Bengaluru I think the way it is going to be projected is that this is a monument for Congress's corruption."
State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa has alleged that the diary contained information about money paid to top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and party treasurer Motilal Vohra. The pages of the diary, he alleged, conveyed such information through abbreviated initials.
Mr Yeddyurappa, who had to quit as Chief Minister in 2011 over corruption allegations, has alleged that Congress leaders in the state were sending money to the party leadership in Delhi. Some of that money, he said, came from kickbacks for sanctioning the bridge project. After the project was scrapped, he said the fight to prove that corruption was not over. He told NDTV, "Our one demand is, please refer to the CBI, truth will come out. We are not going to stop it just because they have stopped the steel bridge, doesn't mean we are going to stop the agitation."
Amid citizens' protests the Congress government had said it had promised the bridge ahead of winning the state in 2013 and would not drop its plans. It said the six-lane steel bridge was essential for removing the notorious traffic jams on one section of road on the way to the airport and promised to plant 60,000 saplings elsewhere in the city to compensate for the trees being removed.
BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad told NDTV that it was unfortunate that the citizens of Bengaluru would be losing out on the project. "It seems it is a political decision," he said, saying the authorities would have to now look for alternatives to deal with traffic issues.