Discontent is brewing in the Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following the government’s plan to bifurcate Ballari district, which is famous for the Hampi stone city and infamous for its illegal mining.
Stakeholders from the mineral-rich district dug in their heels at a meeting called on Wednesday by chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, whose decision to divide it, as was demanded by former Congress legislator Anand Singh, has run into opposition.
Singh and 16 other Congress MLAs had quit the party in July, precipitating the fall of the state’s Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government, and facilitating the BJP’s return to power.
“The proposal itself is for selfish needs," said G. Somashekar Reddy, BJP legislator from Ballari city. “He (chief minister) is giving undue importance to disqualified legislators," said Reddy, brother of G. Janardhana Reddy, who has been accused of illegal ore mining. The reference was to Singh, who had demanded bifurcating the district into Ballari and Vijayanagara, the latter including Hampi.
Yediyurappa’s attempt to keep disqualified Congress legislators satisfied with the promise of BJP tickets has earned the ire of his own party men, who feel they are being sidelined to placate the rebels.
Calling it a long-standing demand, Singh said he will continue to fight for the bifurcation that proposes to split one of the most backward districts in the country. Ballari had shot to limelight after the illegal mining operations of Reddy were revealed in the Justice Santosh Hegde report in 2011, leading to the collapse of the first BJP government in south India. “You cannot divide a district to help just one candidate (Singh)," said Congress MP Syed Naseer Hussain. Ballari has long been exploited for minerals such as iron ore, manganese ore, red oxide, gold, copper and lead, besides non-metallic ores, including andalusite, asbestos, corundum, clay, dolomite, limestone, limekankar, moulding sand, quartz, soap stone, granite and red ochre.