Virtually dismissing the Lokayukta report as nothing but “allegations”, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa claimed he was “innocent” in the entire mining activity, and that there was “no direct link” between the money paid to a trust run by his sons and himself, even as state governor H.R. Bhardwaj promised he would act “within 48 hours of the receipt of the report” and the state BJP unit saw various camps trying to position themselves to take over from an increasingly precariously placed chief minister. Speaking out while holidaying in Mauritius with his family, Mr Yeddyurappa said he had not received a copy of the report and therefore could not speak about it. But he did admit that the Prerana Trust owned by his family mem-bers had collected donations from industries.
“Many institutions established by other politicians collect donations and this is not new,” he said, adding that there was no quid pro quo, and therefore no direct link between the trust and the company that donated the money and him.
“As chief minister, I did not give any mining licences to any mine owners who donated funds to the institutions,” he said.
Mr Yeddyurappa also detailed his attempts to check illegal mining once he took over as CM. “Last time when I went to the National Development Council meeting, I told the Prime Minister to ban the export of iron ore to check illegal mining. My government then banned the export of iron ore,” he said.
When asked why the Lokayukta had indicted him in the report if he was innocent, Mr Yeddyurappa said: “Unless I get the report, I cannot reply.”
Refusing to cut short his holiday, he said he would face the situation when he returned home. “I will unwind till Sunday, and most likely on Saturday or Sunday I may go to New Delhi first before I go to Bengaluru,” he said.
Governor H.R. Bhardwaj made it clear on Friday that while he would take action only on the recommendations of Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde on illegal mining under Sections 12 and 13 of the Lokayukta Act, which indicted the CM and four of his ministerial colleagues along with leaders from Opposition parties, once he did receive the report, action would be taken within 48 hours of its receipt.
“I will not do anything other than what the Lokayukta recommended. Justice Hegde is a competent man. Whatever he recommends, I will go according to it,” Mr Bhardwaj said. “But everyone will know my action the moment I get the report,” he said, adding that he expected the final report to be submitted to the government on Monday.
Dismissing the speculation that he might ask the CM to resign following his indictment by the Lokayukta, the governor, who has attempted to unseat the chief minister twice before, failing on both occasions, said: “He is an elected CM. I am the constitutional head of the state, and the only constitutional authority to recommend or take action against the government and the chief minister. I will react to the question related to the possible action against the CM and his ministerial colleagues only after going through the report. I will not comment based on leaked information,” he said.
But he also added: “It was me who raised the issue of illegal mining in the state. But whenever I raised my voice, they used to say that nothing was wrong. The leaked Lokayukta report has vindicated me,” he said.
The man who has deeply unsettled the political class, meanwhile, moved swiftly to scotch speculation that two former chief ministers were also named in the second mining report. Justice Santosh Hegde on Friday said his report on illegal mining does not name former chief ministers S.M. Krishna or N. Dharam Singh. Reacting to reports on this in a section of the media, Justice Hegde said: “I am not retracting … as I have never said this anywhere. However, I want to clarify — since this has appeared in some sections of the media — that both the names are not there in my report.”
Justice Hegde also brushed aside the report that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had invited him to become that state’s next Lokayukta. “I don’t know how such news was created, but the fact is that my Lokpal drafting committee colleague Shanti Bhushan was approached by the Bihar CM to help draft a Lokayukta Bill in Bihar. Apparently, Mr Bhushan asked Arvind Kejriwal to take my assistance and also visit Patna in this regard,” Justice Hedge said.
The crisis in the BJP in the state, meanwhile, unleashed a war within, with several CM hopefuls raising their head. Facing the worst crisis of the three years it has been in power, the BJP could witness a silent coup to unseat Mr Yeddyurappa once he returns from Mauritius.
Highly-placed party sources said the initiative to get Mr Yeddyurapa out of the saddle was being taken by none other than his Shimoga colleague and state party president K.S. Eshwarappa. A hush-hush campaign has already begun here to diminish the CM’s clout within the organisation, starting soon after details of the Lokayukta report were leaked.
Joining hands with Mr Eshwarappa in this anti-BSY campaign is his arch rival, BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar, who has managed to rope in state home and transport minister R. Ashok to lend his support. In fact, soon after the Lokayukta report was leaked, Mr Ananth Kumar and Mr Eshwarappa held two rounds of discussions to chalk out their future course.
A change is already evident in the style and functioning of Mr Eshwarappa since Friday, party workers admit, which might indicate that he was preparing himself to take over for the remaining two years of the BJP government’s tenure. The mood in the party, which was pretty gloomy on Friday, has turned to one of resilience after the Ananth camp took over the sensitive task of handling the media, the sources said.
According to the secret pact between Mr Kumar and Mr Eshwarappa, the day after the Lokayukta submits his final report (July 26), they will approach top party leaders seeking Mr Yeddyurappa’s resignation. Mr Eshwarappa, a Kuruba, will be projected as the alternative CM. To balance the caste equation, R. Ashok, a Vokkaliga, and Jagadish Shetter, a Lingayat, might be made deputy chief ministers and given major portfolios.
This time the oust-Yeddyurappa operation is likely to be conducted meticulously. If he refuses to abide by the views of a majority of legislators that he should quit, Mr Eshwarappa is likely to openly seek his resignation to put added pressure on the central leadership, the sources said. Asian Age