Parts of the Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice N. Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining that were leaked to the Times Now channel on Wednesday may not have added materially to the information that is already in the public domain. However, the response the leak has generated across the political spectrum is indicative of the effect the Lokayukta’s findings will have on politics in Karnataka. The immediate impact will be felt by not only Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the Bharatiya Janata Party government but also the most vocal Opposition leader and former Chief Minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, who is spearheading a campaign for the resignation of the Chief Minister on grounds of corruption.
Both of them appear to have been indicted, although the full extent of their role and involvement will be known only when the report is officially released. For the present, the Chief Minister, who is holidaying in Mauritius, is playing down the import of the findings. He is not likely to cut short his trip. A member of his strategy team has said that as the government set up the Lokayukta inquiry, it can either accept or reject the findings of the voluminous report.
Mr. Yeddyurappa, who has fought off corruption allegations in the three years of his tenure, will be under increased pressure from detractors within his party and the Opposition once the report is formally released.
In yet another setback to him, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of petitions filed by his son-in-law, Sohan Kumar and others, challenging the order of the Special Lokayukta Court that is inquiring into corruption allegations against the Chief Minister.
The full report will, as Justice Hegde has been promising for some time now, reveal the entire canvas of illegality under which iron ore mining has taken place over the last 10 years. During this period, iron ore in the Bellary region was mined with a frenzied greed reminiscent of the spirit of primitive accumulation. The report is expected to lay bare the methods by which iron ore was mined and exported even after the State government banned exports from Karnataka in July 2010. More importantly, it will show how the wealth generated from illegal mining was used by mining barons to subvert the political and administrative system, creating what Mr. Hegde has alluded to as a “State within a State” in Bellary district.
It was the Janata Dal(Secular)-BJP coalition government that instituted a Lokayukta inquiry into mining irregularities in March 2007.
The Lokayukta presented his first report on December 18, 2008. Over seven months later, the government released a 12-volume Action Taken Report, famously re-christened “Action-to-be-taken Report” by Justice Hegde.
Justice Hegde, who is due to demit office on August 1, hopes that the findings of the latest report will strengthen the petition against illegal mining that is already before the Supreme Court, and in response to which the court appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to investigate mining illegalities.
The Lokayukta team’s investigations have been strengthened by the independent findings of the CEC, the Central Bureau of Investigation (appointed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court), and the Income Tax Department. The I-T investigation in particular has zeroed in on the devious business practices of the Obulapuram Mining Company owned by Tourism Minister G. Janardhan Reddy, Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and legislator G. Somashekhara Reddy. Hindu