This Article is From Jul 13, 2010

Karnataka Governor says corrupt ministers must go, BJP furious

Bangalore: With sleepovers and protective gear headlining recent events at the Karnataka Assembly, the Governor of the state, HK Bhardwaj, met President Pratibha Patil in Delhi to update her on the root cause of all the commotion: The powerful Reddy brothers, mining barons and cabinet ministers, and their alleged involvement with illegal mining.

After the meeting with the President, Bhardwaj told reporters that corrupt ministers cannot be allowed to continue in the government.

"I have informed both the Chief Minister of my concern, as well as the central government. And I will meet the Home Minister tomorrow and will apprise him of the latest situation. This is only a controversy about 4-5 ministers who are involved in illegal mining and making huge profits. I have referred the matter to the Election Commission, raising two questions:  office of profit, and also conflict of interest.  You are being paid by the state good salary, good perks... how can you do this kind of things?"

Those remarks have upset the BJP, which is in power for the first time in a Southern state. "Mr Bhardwaj should decide once and for all is he holding a constitutional post or he is a rank agent of Congress party... the kind of  statement he has made, we take a strong offense to it and we will demand from President of India - please check your Governor. The Governor cannot become an agent to destabilise the government which has been popularly elected," said Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP spokesperson.

At home in Karnataka, the political temperature stayed hot as Opposition MLAs first spent the night at the Assembly, and then refused to go home after the Speaker adjourned the Assembly for the day. They took the floor of the House in a whole new way - will satin pillows, reclining against one another in a somewhat unnatural show of political solidarity. What the Opposition - mainly the Congress party and the JD(S) - want to provoke is a CBI inquiry against the Reddy brothers, Karunakara and Janardhan. On Friday, this demand pushed the Assembly to the edge of violence. On Monday, Opposition MLAs showed up at work wearing hard-hats, insisting they don't feel safe because they've been threatened by the BJP, including the Reddys, to back off. "They made a statement in the floor of the House - you come to Bellary, we will see that you will be stripped," alleged Congress leader Siddaramaiah. (Watch: MLAs' night out in Karnataka Assembly) | (Read: Biryani, folk songs part of Karnataka MLAs' sit-in)

That the Reddys pose a formidable opponent is well-known to Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who faced their wrath just a few months ago. Upset with him for introducing policies that they deemed unsuitable for their business interest, the Reddys orchestrated a giant rebellion against the Chief Minister in November 2009, one that included publicly parading 60 MLAs who said that if they had to choose, they'd side with the mining barons.

Confronted with the prospect of losing his job, Yeddyurappa gave in to their demands, sacking a minister who the Reddys objected to. He wept in public at his predicament. (Read: Karnataka CM rules out CBI probe into illegal mining)

The Governor says he has urged the Chief Minister to take a bolder stand now. "The Chief Minister himself was a victim. One year ago in Delhi, it was a big scene. He is a person who realises this, I spoke to him and told him, 'You are the CM, it is you who should tell... and nobody else... as you are the one who appointed them.' So he says 'I need time to correct all this.' He doesn't say this has not happened."

The Reddys say they may go to court against the Governor. "What the Governor's duties are and how he is carrying out those duties?"

Within the BJP, the support for the Reddys is ebbing. The issue of illegal mining and the allegation that the government is shielding members who participate in it were at the heart of the very public r resignation of the state's Lokayukta or ombudsman, Santosh Hegde, earlier this month. Hedge agreed to withdraw his resignation only after senior BJP leader LK Advani called him.

Since then, an emboldened Yedyurappa has hinted that illegal mining will be curbed - a sign, say sources, that the part is getting ready to penalise in some form the brothers who've functioned so far as a parallel power centre in Karnataka.