Bangalore/New Delhi: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s fate hung in the balance on Friday evening as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) top leadership prepared to meet at night to decide on his future following allegations about improper land deals to benefit his family members.
The leadership, including party president Nitin Gadkari, L.K. Advani, Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, will meet Yeddyurappa at Advani’s residence.
Some cabinet members and senior party leaders from Karnataka were also expected to attend the meeting that was due to get over only after Mint went to press.
“We’ll give Yeddyurappa a chance to explain. The party will examine all the documents and see what he has to say. See, we are not too keen on removing him and we can’t deny he is extremely popular,” said a BJP leader, who did not want to be named. “But again, the party doesn’t want to be seen as supporting something which might be obviously wrong, so the core group will have to consider all of this. We as a party do not like to be seen as being indecisive, so either way, some resolution will be reached.”
Yeddyurappa, who has so far been known to enjoy Gadkari’s backing, has come under attack from the Opposition seeking his ouster over alleged land scams and the allotment of land to a firm in which his two sons are partners.
Meanwhile, Yeddyurappa’s family surrendered four denotified residential properties and land on Thursday.
Son B.Y. Raghavendra surrendered two acres of land denotified for his Fluid Power Technologies, in which he and his brother B.Y. Vijayendra were partners. He also surrendered a 4,000 sq. ft residential property in Bangalore.
Yeddyurappa’s daughter, Umadevi, too, submitted two acres of land allotted for Candour Pvt. Ltd, a business process outsourcing firm owned by her. Yeddyurappa’s sister, Premamma, and her son and daughter-in-law, Arvind and Deepa, surrendered two residential properties in Bangalore.
TV9, a Kannada news channel, had reported on Thursday that Yeddyurappa may be asked to step down. The return of land is being seen as his final attempt to remain in power.
The state unit president of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), H.D. Kumaraswamy, last week accused Yeddyurappa of denotifying and allotting land to his family members. JD(S) spokesperson Y.S.V. Dutta on Thursday filed a complaint to the Lokayukta alleging that Yeddyurappa had denotified and allotted land worth up to Rs5,000 crore.
The name of another lingayat leader with a strong base in north Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar, has been making the rounds as a possible replacement for Yeddyurappa. Another BJP leader and member of Parliament from south Bangalore, Ananth Kumar, too, is said to be in the race. BJP state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa and law minister S. Suresh Kumar’s names, too, have been making the rounds.
Land allotment controversies dog Shettar as well. Around 2.5 acres of land in the industrial area in Dharwad was denotified to his brother Pradeep Shettar.
The opposition parties, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) and JD(S), are not ready to back off now that the land allotments to Yeddyurappa’s family have been cancelled. “The issue is not over until the chief minister steps down. The law treats the common man and those in power equally,” said Kumaraswamy.
KPCC president G. Parameshwar, too, made fresh demands for the chief minister’s resignation. “He should follow in the steps of former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, former Union ministers A. Raja, Shashi Tharoor and Suresh Kalamadi, who quit after being accused of corruption,” he said.
The entire episode has been an example of the misuse of the authority in Karnataka, said political analyst Sandeep Shastri. “The state once known for democracy and progressiveness is in the news for the wrong reasons.”
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has refused to openly get involved in the issue. “RSS never gets into such things. This is entirely the BJP’s decision,” said Ram Madhav, member of the national executive committee of the RSS.