Yeddyurappa fast running out of options

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s options to stay on in power are dwindling, with the Lokayukta naming him in the report on illegal mining and police beginning to probe corruption cases against him.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in south India is known to be a dogged fighter and has come up the hard way from the ranks. But all those battles would pale in comparison in the face of hurdles he now faces. Those were battles against other parties and critics within.

He now has to fight several battles – political, legal, public perception and dissidence.

The best option for Yeddyurappa is to quit, claim the moral high ground, however unconvincing the attempt might be, and fight his way back to re-emerge as the BJP’s strongman in Karnataka.

The only other option is to stay and fight – a battle that is sure to leave his party, more than him, badly bruised nationally and lead to factions in the state that was hailed as the BJP’s gateway to south India.

His staunch supporters in the party will egg him on to stay on, pointing out weaknesses in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.

The report is to be submitted to the government Monday by the Lokayukta, N. Santosh Hegde, a retired judge of the Supreme Court whose term as ombudsman ends Aug 2.

Hegde has conceded there is no direct evidence of Yeddyurappa’s involvement in the rampant illegal mining in the state, particularly in the last 10 years when the global demand for steel has soared.

Hegde and his team of investigators have, however, gathered evidence to conclude that Yeddyurappa’s sons and son-in-law have financially benefited from companies involved in illegal mining.

This ambivalent stand of Lokayukta would offer Yeddyurappa the tempting choice of brazening out the crisis.

That the Lokayukta has also found that Yeddyurappa’s predecessor H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) had granted a license to two companies to mine iron ore by flouting rules is some consolation to BJP.

Yeddyurappa has argued that he has not granted a single licence since taking power in May 2008, and all the licenses were given by his Congress and JD-S predecessors.

Hegde has also named Congress Rajya Sabha member and mining baron Anil Lad for illegal mining.

In an earlier report he submitted in December 2008, the Lokayukta found Congress chief minister N. Dharam Singh guilty of causing loss to the state and ordered recovery of over Rs.30 crore from him.

However, the name of Dharam Singh, who was chief minister of the Congress-JD-S coalition in 2004-06, was deleted from the report by the then governor Rameshwar Thakur.

Yeddyurappa and BJP have been taunting Congress over the Dharam Singh episode and hitting back at JD-S that their leader Kumaraswamy had granted many mining leases just before demitting office in 2007.

These factors did help Yeddyurappa to defend himself all these years from the opposition attacks and also win over his party central leaders not to force him to quit.

Using the same ruse again may be politically expedient but only for a short term.

He can exploit the ambivalence in the Lokayukta report of no direct evidence only if he clears his name from all other graft and illegal land deal allegations.

As far his kin are concerned, Yeddyurappa has only to follow what he did when it became public that he had favoured with prime land in and around Bangalore.

They were made to surrender the land. Likewise, they can now be made to wind up trusts and clean up businesses, beginning the exercise by returning the money that Lokayukta says were given by mining companies.

If Yeddyurappa is not willing to take this option, BJP central leaders may have little choice but to force it on him.