Will Congress do a Yeddyurappa with Goa’s Kamat?

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, IANS,

Panaji : Like B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat is now facing criticism from within his own party, the Congress, for illegal mining in the state, which produces nearly 54 million tonnes of iron ore annually. Of this, nearly 20 percent is said to be illegal.

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Goa Congress sources told IANS that Kamat, along with state Congress president Subhash Shirodkar, had been summoned by the party’s national leadership in New Delhi for an explanation over his failure to curb illegal mining.

“Over the last four years, Kamat managed to convince the party high command that illegal mining was a myth. But with facts coming to the fore, Delhi wants answers from Kamat, why he was found wanting to act against illegal mining,” a party leader said.

The party functionary, a former president of the Goa Congress, said the Congress leadership might have to match up to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) move in Karnataka, where Yeddyurappa was forced to exit as chief minister after being indicted in a multi-crore illegal mining scam, along with mining barons and cabinet colleagues, the Reddy brothers.

With Goa scheduled to go for elections before June next year, the Congress top brass is also wary about its state leadership being linked to a mega mining scam, the sources say.

According to Congress leader in charge of Goa, Jagmeet Brar, the party would come down hard on any leader linked to corruption.

“Unlike the BJP, the Congress will not hesitate in taking stringent action against anybody, howsoever big, found involved in illegal mining. There will be no compromise on corruption,” he said in New Delhi Tuesday.

While the Karnataka mining scam is pegged at Rs.16,000 crore, former deputy chief minister and ruling Congress legislator Dayanand Narvekar has pegged the mining scam in Goa at Rs.10,000 crore.

Narvekar Saturday told the Shah Commission, which was in Goa last week to probe illegal mining, that the scam was obvious because the disparity in the amount of ore extracted and exported was too large to be missed.

“Illegal mining in Goa is worth Rs.10,000 crore. Goa is exporting more ore than in it is producing. How can that happen unless the excess ore is extracted illegally? If the mining department figures and the GMOEA (Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association) figures are juxtaposed, the scam is obvious,” Narvekar said.

Kamat, who has been accused by the opposition of overlooking illegal mining over the last four years, made a hasty trip to Raj Bhavan to meet Justice Shah Monday.

“I had gone to tell the Commission that legal mining should not be stopped. There are several thousand families dependent on this trade,” Kamat told reporters.

Justice Shah is expected to submit his report on illegal mining in Goa to the central government in November.

Leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar has accused Kamat as well as several cabinet ministers of being part of the illegal mining scandal.