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Hard times for Karnataka executive, judiciary

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : For the first time in Karnataka, both the executive and the judiciary are simultaneously passing through troubled times.

The legislature, meeting early next month, is set to be paralysed by an opposition waiting to clobber the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first government in the state for the mess it is in.

An uneasy truce between Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and dissident ministers G. Janardhana Reddy (Tourism) and his elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy (Revenue) has been stitched by the BJP’s central leaders to save the state government.

That has, however, left the chief minister virtually without power as a coordination committee will have a final say on all major decisions taken by him. The committee is to be set up in the next few days.

The Reddy brothers have given a strong indication that senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, known to be close to them, will be a key player in running Karnataka affairs from now on.

While Yeddyurappa struggles to balance the dignity and authority of his chair and dissident ministers’ demand for unbridled freedom, the bar and the judiciary in the state are at loggerheads over the continuation in office of High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran.

The lawyers, who are members of the Advocates Association of Bangalore (AAB), are facing possible contempt of court action against them for trying to force Dinakaran and other judges of the high court to stop hearing cases Monday.

The AAB had called for a boycott of courts across Karnataka against Dinakaran holding proceedings in spite of charges of land grab against him in his home state of Tamil Nadu.

But several lawyers who are not AAB members not only opposed the call but also appeared for court proceedings Monday.

A ruckus followed in the court premises as a section of lawyers barged into the courts of Dinakaran and other judges, demanding they stop hearing the cases. An angry Dinakaran walked out of the court while two other judges were locked up in their chambers for a few hours for refusing to bow to the protesting lawyers.

An upset judiciary has issued a notice to AAB office-bearers asking why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them.

The lawyers also attacked journalists. A reporter and a TV cameraman suffered minor injuries. Several other journalists who went to their help were pushed around.

The legislature is to meet Dec 10 for its winter session. The opposition has been demanding an immediate session to discuss the dissidence against Yeddyurappa and the impact of the peace deal on the dignity of the chief minister’s post.

Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leaders have been lampooning Yeddyurappa and BJP central leaders for bowing to the financial might of the Reddy brothers.

State Congress president R.V. Deshpande has described the peace deal as “a marriage of compulsion. It has proved that the chief minister is very weak and, to keep his seat, he will go to any extent and sacrifice anything.”

JD-S state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has challenged Yeddyurappa to dissolve the assembly and go for elections.

“The administration has collapsed,” he said. “If the chief minister has any sense, he must dissolve the assembly.”

State BJP leaders themselves disagree with party central leaders’ statements that “everything has been solved”.

Karnataka BJP chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda said, “It would be foolish to think all issues have been resolved simply by raising hands.” He was referring to Yeddyurappa and Janardhana Reddy holding hands in the presence of Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi to announce the end of the crisis.

He and senior ministers V.S. Acharya (Home), K.S. Eshwarappa (Power) and S. Suresh Kumar (Law) have said the two-week crisis has dented the BJP’s image.