New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a significant setback after Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa was dealt twin blows.
The high court upheld governor H.R. Bhardwaj’s sanction to prosecute the chief minister and his family members on five private complaints even as the autonomous antigraft watchdog indicted Yeddyurappa in the illegal mining case.
The developments will put the BJP on the defensive at a time when it was looking to confront the United Progressive Alliance in the forthcoming session of Parliament, due to begin on 1 August, for alleged governance misdemeanours.
Looming trouble: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. Photo Hemant Mishra/Mint
In fresh political trouble for Yeddyurappa, Lokayukta justice Santosh N. Hegde said a report prepared by him has given “substantive” and “voluminous” evidence against the chief minister, a senior BJP leader, in the mining scam that allegedly cost the state exchequer Rs 1,800 crore in a period of 14 months.
The Congress and the Left parties demanded that Yeddyurappa, whose tenure has been mired in a series of controversies, including corruption charges, should quit. However, the BJP maintained that it would wait for a formal submission of the report before reacting to it.
“As a matter of fact, the chief minister is responsible for what’s happening in (the mineral-rich district of) Bellary because the minister in charge (of the district G. Janardhana Reddy) is owner of a mining company (Obalapuram Mining Co.) and a mafia-like situation is created with every official being involved. They have created a new system altogether by which they could literally bleed other mining companies,” Hegde told PTI.
A Lokayukta official, not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that the report will be presented to the government on 25 July. “Several of the team members were working on the field in Bellary, the region where many of the controversial mines are located. They were providing reports over phone. That is how some details must have leaked,” he said.
Pressure is also expected to mount after the Karnataka high court dismissed all five petitions filed by Yeddyurappa’s son-in-law Sohan Kumar; sons B.Y. Raghavendra, a Lok Sabha member; and B.Y. Vijayendra; Dhavalagiri Developers, a firm run by them; and beneficiary Akka Mahadevi, challenging the lower court order taking cognizance of the complaints. The complaints were filed after the governor accorded sanction for prosecution of the chief minister and others.
The judge observed the complaints were all right and in “accordance with law”, and did not suffer from any “legal infirmity or lacunae”. Further, upholding the sanction for prosecution accorded by the governor, the judge said that it was very much “maintainable” and within the ambit of the law. Bhardwaj had sanctioned the chief minister’s prosecution in alleged land scams in January this year.
The BJP maintained that it would follow the law. “The so-called report is yet to be presented. Reports in media are selective leaks. We cannot comment on that. We will give a response when the report is submitted officially... We should only discuss reports that have been submitted... The BJP always follows the law and Lokayukta is part of the legal process. We will give our reaction when the report is submitted,” Prakash Javadekar, BJP spokesperson, told reporters in the national capital.
The opposition parties disagreed.
“It’s a very serious indictment and I think during this serious indictment the chief minister should not continue in his office,” said Sitaram Yechury, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed also demanded the resignation of the chief minister.
Ruhi Tewari in New Delhi and Sridhar Chari in Bangalore contributed to this story.