Siddaramaiah hands over Hublot watch as state asset

BENGALURU: Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah handed over his diamond-studded Hublotwatch to legislative assembly speaker Kagodu Thimmappa on Wednesday along with a letter asking him to make it a state asset. ET had reported that Siddaramaiah was likely to do this in a report Siddaramaiah may Declare His Rs. 70L Watch a State Asset on Feburary 22.

The dramatic move aimed at salvaging his image, however, did not pacify the opposition BJP and JD(S), who have allowed neither house of the legislature to function for the last three days.

Siddaramaiah, who initially said he did not know who had gifted the watch to him, got a Dubai-based surgeon Dr Girish Pillai Chandra Varma to personally submit an affidavit, a week ago, stating that he had gifted the watch. Varma has also stated that he has neither property nor any business interests in Karnataka and had given the watch to the CM out of friendship and affection.

The opposition, however, expressed doubts about this defence and maintained that the CM had violated foreign exchange regulations and also income tax laws. To this, Siddaramaiah has said in his letter that he has paid advance tax on the gifted watch on Wednesday. His letter also asks the Speaker to hand over the watch to the state’s chief secretary to place it in the cabinet hall as a state asset, along the lines of what his predecessors have done.

“Is the Speaker a postman? What is the need for this stunt,” legislative assembly opposition leader Jagadish Shettar asked. The BJP and the JD(S) will hold a joint meeting on Thursday to decide how to continue their agitation.

Analyst Harish Ramaswamy, however, told ET that he felt the watch would not make any political impact, as no quid pro quo had been proved indicating corruption. “JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy has become silent now. The BJP is raising it because they have nothing else and because they have not performed well in the recent district and taluk panchayat elections. The CM, however, has been weakened by this controversy and it has given home minister G Parameshwara a chance to push for getting more power as deputy CM,” he said.