Bangalore: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s national command rushed its leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and state-in-charge Arun Jaitley to Karnataka to quell mounting dissidence against the leadership of chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. The BJP government in the state over the past week has been roiled by dissidence led by the Gali Reddy brothers, powerful mining barons from Bellary.
Over the past few days, G. Karunakara Reddy, the revenue minister of the state, his younger brother G. Janardhana Reddy, the tourism minister, and the third brother G. Somashekara Reddy, chairman of the Karnataka Milk Federation, have been meeting dissident members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) in the state.
Political infighting: Chief minister BS Yeddyurappa is facing increasing dissent among his party members. Hemant Mishra/Mint
The Reddy brothers have been upset at what they say are “unilateral decisions” taken by the chief minister. Yeddyurappa had announced the imposition of a Rs1,000 toll per iron-ore-laden truck per trip as part of an effort to raise funds to provide relief for the flood-hit districts of north Karnataka. The Reddy brothers, who control the Obalapuram mines and Brahmani Steels, have been asking for a reduction in the toll.
The move by the state government to transfer the district commissioner, superintendent of police and the deputy conservator of forest of Bellary without consulting the Reddy brothers has also not gone down well with them.
However, in order to ensure that they send out the right political signals, the brothers have said they will build 50,000 houses in north Karnataka. In a bout of shadow-boxing, G. Janardhana Reddy declared, “In or out of government, we are at the service of the people. Unlike those who go around on padayatra to raise funds and be disappointed, we ourselves will build these houses out of our personal funds. Along with other mine owners, we will spend Rs500 crore to bring relief to those who have been hit hard by floods in places such as Bellary, Bidar, Bagalkot, Gulbarga, Koppal and Raichur.”
The chief minister had undertaken a padayatra (walkathon) on 8 October in Bangalore to raise funds for the flood affected of north Karnataka.
Another BJP MLA, who is seen as sympathetic to the Reddy brothers but did not want to be identified, said, “It is the Reddy brothers who helped (the) BJP come to power in the state. Remember Sonia Gandhi in 1999 chose Bellary to contest from, indicating how strong the Congress was here. Within a decade, it was the Reddys who managed to make Bellary a BJP fortress. It is wrong to ignore them. The CM at present consults only some ministers and close bureaucrats. This is not acceptable. We want a CM who takes the entire party along.”
The Reddy brothers are proposing that Jagadish Shettar, the current speaker of the assembly who is seen as an old foe of Yeddyurappa, be made CM. Shettar had led the BJP as the leader of opposition in the state assembly for five years from 1999 when Yeddyurappa had lost elections from his hometown Shikaripura constituency.
On a day of fast-moving political developments, Shettar met the pontiff of Suttur Mutt in Mysore. Last month, BJP MLAs had held a chintan baithak at Suttur Mutt.
Jaitley held separate meetings with Yeddyurappa and dissident leader G. Karunakara Reddy. The party declined to comment on the details of the meeting, but spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that while “there could be some organizational differences in the Karnataka state unit, we believe that these are within limits of being solved through dialogue and interaction”.
“I have not been rushed to the state. I keep coming. Every discussion in the party is not a crisis. We will sit together and sort out matters,” said Jaitley.
“When the BJP roped in the Reddy brothers, they clearly knew that they were mounting a tiger. It is now not easy to dismount,” said political analyst Sandeep Shastri.
Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.