Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will not step down from office as the payments into his sons’ Prerana Trust were completely above board and made through cheques, sources close to the chief minister insisted.
“I will go to the people for re-election but I will not step down,” is what a defiant Mr Yeddyurappa has reportedly told confidants in the party in the wake of the Lokayukta’s second mining report, which has indicted him for alleged involvement in illegal mining in Karnataka.
“The money was not paid in cash; it is accounted money because it was paid through bank cheques. So where’s the question of it being an illegal transaction,” the chief minister’s aide told this newspaper from Mauritius, where Mr Yeddyurappa is currently holidaying with family and friends.
As the clamour grows for him to step down in the face of the Lokayukta report that reportedly indicts him for granting undue favours to a steel giant in return for donations to the educational trust, the aide said, “The figure mentioned in the report seems highly exaggerated. What is the favour doled out to the company in return for this donation? Anyway, worldwide, educational trusts receive donations. What is wrong with it?”
Mr Yeddyurappa, set to land in Bengaluru on Monday via Mumbai, has allegedly been indicted on two counts by the Lokayukta in the second mining report. The first is for donations of over `30 crore received by his family-run Prerna Trust from a mining company for official favour, which is reportedly a waiver of monies owed to another company.
High-level sources said the mining firm in question was also issued a mining lease, but this was denied by the CM’s aide. “The allegations in the leaked report are already in the public domain and none of them have been proved,” the source said, adding, “If the CM is involved in such huge financial irregularities then why haven’t Central agencies like income-tax acted on the information?”
The second indictment is based on the Lokayukta’s investigation into the sale of an acre of land by Mr Yeddyurappa’s sons B.Y. Raghavendra and B.Y. Vijayendra and son-in-law R.N. Sohan Kumar at Rachenahalli, near Bengaluru International Airport, to the mining company at an inflated price.
“The CM is open to any scrutiny on this,” the source said. The CM’s aide also defended himself against charges that he illegally tapped Lokayukta Santosh Hegde’s phone. Denying that the CM had instructed the tapping to gain information on the mining report, he told this newspaper: “The chief minister will retire from politics if the charges of phone-tapping are proved against him.”
“Tapping phones, especially of high-profile people, requires permission from the Central government. The state government cannot do it on its own. The CM is willing to have any inquiry instituted in the phone-tapping allegation and, if it proves his involvement, he will retire from politics,” said the source.
Mr Yeddyurappa has also reportedly rubbished reports of a change of guard in the wake of the Lokayukta report. “He has the support of the BJP central leadership. There’s no question of his stepping down. The Opposition parties are cashing in on the leaked report and his detractors within the party are making the most of it and trying to get their own man in as CM,” his aide said. Asian Age