Under attack from the Opposition over his luxurious watch, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today said he would declare it as a state asset and hand it over to the government. "About the expensive watch I was wearing, which has been discussed almost everyday and reported in the media, I have this much to say that I will be declaring it as the state asset and deposit it with state secretariat," he told reporters here. The controversy was fuelled by former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy who had claimed the diamond-studded Hublot watch was worth Rs 70 lakh and had been gifted to Siddaramaiah and that he had proof for his claims. Siddaramaiah revealed that the expensive watch was gifted to him by his close friend (NRI) Gopal Pillai Girish Chandra Verma who visited India last July. "The full name of the person who gifted this invaluable watch is Gopal Pillai Girish Chandra Verma. He had come to India in July last year. I know him since 1983 and whenever he visits India, he meets me," the Chief Minister said. Siddaramaiah further clarified, "Verma gifted me the watch, even though I was not keen on accepting it. However, he insisted that I accept it and I accepted because of our long friendship but I did not know how expensive it was."
The CM said he would furnish relevant documents of the watch to the Lokayukta and Income Tax. The Chief Minister's decision to declare the watch as a state asset comes in the backdrop of criticism from various quarters.
State BJP President and MP Prahalad Joshi had sought a probe by the Enforcement Directorate to find out the owner of the watch and whether customs duty had been paid for it.
A complaint had been filed by city-based activist S Bhaskaran with the state Lokayukta seeking Siddaramaiah's prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act for accepting the expensive gift and not declaring it before appropriate authorities.
Reacting to Siddaramaiah's announcement, Congress MLC V S Ugrappa, who had yesterday suggested three options including declaring the watch as a state asset, welcomed it. Seeking to turn the tables, he asked Kumaraswamy to declare his "luxurious" assets, including cars and watches, as state asset.
Replying to a query, Ugrappa said the Chief Minister was busy with recent by-election, and Taluk and Zilla Panchayat polls and hence could not find time to come out with facts about the controversy earlier. Kumaraswamy had argued that the Chief Minister should have come out openly the very next day the watch controversy came out in public.