His exit seems imminent this time, unlike previous occasions when he not only staved off revolts by several ministers and the formidable Reddy brothers, but flashed the victory sign when the Union government rejected governor H.R. Bhardwaj’s recommendation for President’s Rule twice in less than a year.
For, there are too many failings, and too many foes arrayed against B.S. Yeddyurappa — in Bengaluru and New Delhi — with a slew of complaints, the most serious being his role and that of his kin in supporting dubious players in the mining industry.
Though the final report of the Lokayukta, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, a document damning enough to trigger the downfall of the first BJP government south of the Vindhyas has not landed at the chief minister’s doorstep yet, stinging comments by the retired Supreme Court judge indicate the loot of precious iron ore through unauthorised mining causing a loss in excess of `1,800 crores to the state exchequer.
Such a clear hint that the report would indict Mr Yeddyurappa has not only spurred a chorus for his resignation by Opposition leaders, but triggered a race among aspirants in the ruling party to succeed the beleaguered leader.
While the state unit has started crumbling from within because the names of a host of ministers and legislators allegedly involved in illegal mining have made it to headlines this week, the contenders have started lobbying with senior central leaders and legislators for the top job.
State unit chief K.S. Eshwarappa, a heavyweight among backward classes (from the shepherd Kuruba community, as is Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah) who once hankered after a position in the Cabinet, but has now emerged among the front runners along with Mr Yeddyurappa’s choice, energy minister Shobha Karandlaje (from the Vokkaliga caste).
The chief minister’s bête noire and party general secretary Ananth Kumar will certainly throw his hat in the ring as he has waited in the wings for several years. He did not make it even though he led the party to secure the status of single-largest with 79 of the 224 seats in the Assembly in 2004. In case senior leaders spike his chances because of his Brahmin credentials, Mr Ananth Kumar will back his nominee and rural development minister Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat from north Karnataka. Sources in the party said home minister R. Ashoka, higher education minister and confidant of Mr Yeddyurappa, Dr V.S. Acharya, and dark horses like law minister Suresh Kumar are also in contention. Mr Yeddyurappa, however, is expected to dig in his heels and demand another lease of life going by his statements from Mauritius. He could, however, back down and instead, seek the appointment of a legislator of his choice as the new leader of the BJP Legislature Party. He has already indicated that he will fly to New Delhi to speak to senior leaders first and only then head home to Bengaluru.
But one man who has made up his mind to end Mr Yeddyurappa’s innings — governor Bhardwaj — has already indicated the mine-field ahead for the chief minister on his return from a vacation in Mauritius. “Whatever he (Justice Hegde) will recommend, I will go according to that. I am not going to do anything (else),” Mr Bhardwaj said on Friday.
And with Justice Hegde indicating that the damaging report against Mr Yeddyurappa and his ministers will be out “early next week”, the governor’s task of ending the chief minister’s three-year run will certainly be swift and simple. Asian Age