Bangalore : Eyebrows were raised when seven cabinet ministers stayed away from the gala function held Sunday to celebrate the completion of the first year of the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka.
Amid conflicting reports, divergent reasons were being given for the conspicuous absence of the ministers at the vikas sankalp utsav, or commitment-to-development festival, organised jointly by the ruling party and the state government at the sprawling National College grounds in upscale Basavangudi.
Prominent among the ministers who did not turn up for the one-year bash are the famous Reddy brothers of the rich iron ore mining district of Bellary in north Karnataka – Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and Infrastructure Development & Tourism Minister G. Janardhan Reddy and Health Minister B. Sriramulu, also from Bellary.
The other four are Energy Minister K.S. Eshwarappa, Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar, Municipal & Local Bodies Minister Balachandra L. Jarkiholi and Small Savings & Lotteries Minister K. Shivanagouda Naik.
Though the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu were in Bangalore, they remained out of bounds to the media. While Eshwarappa was in Shimoga, the whereabouts of Asnotikar, Jarkiholi and Naik were not known.
Transport Minister R. Ashok, who was in-charge of the grand event that included an exhibition on the state’s various socio-economic programmes and development schemes, told reporters later that some of the ministers in the 34-member cabinet were not “invited” to the function as it was confined to Bangalore and the neighbouring districts.
“The utsav marking the completion of our government’s first year in the state will also be held at Hubli, Gulbarga and Belgaum in the coming months. Some of those who were not invited kept away as they will participate in similar rallies to be held in their respective regions,” Ashok said, spiking speculation that a revolt was brewing in the one-year-old Yeddyurappa government.
According to party sources, the Reddy ministers and Eshwarappa were unhappy with the style of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s functioning during the last few months, especially after the party secured majority, 115 seats in the 225-member house, by winning five of the eight assembly by-elections in December.
“Undue importance is being given to the Lingayat community to which the chief minister belongs. Several legislators and ministers are also upset over the interference of the Yeddyurappa family in administration, especially transfers, leading to charges of corruption,” a party source told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
Evidence of simmering discontent in the ruling party over the chief minister’s alleged high-handedness surfaced when expelled senior party leader and former central minister Basavraj Patil Yatnal from Bijapur in north Karnataka hinted that several legislators were bracing up to revolt against Yeddyurappa for ignoring the party’s interests.
“I caution Yeddyurappa that legislators would revolt against him soon if he did not mend his autocratic ways, stop his family members from interfering in governance and check mounting corruption in the one-year-old BJP government,” Yatnal told reporters in Bangalore Sunday.
Urging the BJP high command to revoke his six-year expulsion, Yatnal said though thousands of cadres, over 100 legislators and all ministers worked hard for the party’s success during the recent general elections, the chief minister was claiming full credit for the party’s victory in 19 of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.
“My expulsion after the parliamentary results is undemocratic as I was not given an opportunity to explain my stand. The chief minister has been side-lining senior leaders and many legislators, who are not given opportunity to serve the people through boards and corporations,” Yatnal averred.