Karnataka: Lokayukta's report on illegal mining submitted

Bangalore:  Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde's mammoth report on illegal mining in the state has been formally presented to the government. The report indicts Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and politicians from many other parties, accusing them of colluding to allow illegal mining and benefitting from it, often through kickbacks.

On the line is Mr Yeddyurappa's job - the Opposition has been clamouring for his ouster and many in his own party, the BJP, see wisdom in his being asked to step down. Many predict that Mr Yeddyurappa's exit from office is now just hours away.

But Mr Yeddyurappa has remained defiant through this. He was seen this morning distributing the famous Tirupati ladoos to reporters waiting for a word with him. The Chief Minister of Karnataka spent the night at the Tirumala temple.  "I woke up in a very good mood," he said, explaining that he enjoyed his early morning darshan at the Tirumala temple. "I prayed for so many things," he said, "I sat in front of God." He said he has no worries about losing his job because "Lord Balaji and all other gods are with me. I am doing so much good work," he added.

Justice Santosh Hegde, who serves as the Lokayukta or ombudsman of Karnataka, said before the report was presented: "I have no hope that the report will be implemented by the government. But I hope the Supreme Court takes cognizance as they are already monitoring illegal mining," Mr Hegde said speaking to reporters in Bangalore.

The Lokayukta has already confirmed that his report names Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and four state ministers, among others. The embattled Chief Minister has, however, denied that he has been named in the report. He insists that there's "no evidence against me".

Defiant and refusing to quit, Mr Yeddyurappa told reporters in Bangalore yesterday, "There are many corrupt ministers in Delhi. The Prime Minister is a noble man but his circle is corrupt. So let him resign first and then let them talk about us." He added that he was confident of continuing as the Chief Minister for the next two years.

The Opposition has attacked Mr Yeddyurappa unsparingly and very vocally over the Hegde report, demanding that he be sacked immediately for being accused of nepotism and corruption. Even the BJP is split on this - there is a divide over whether he should continue as CM. BJP vice-president Shanta Kumar has openly said Mr Yeddyurappa must step down.

Mr Yeddyurappa, the first BJP Chief Minister in a southern state, has survived all attacks against him in the last three years. But sources say a faction in the party now claims that their big plans of taking on the UPA government on the issue of corruption in the forthcoming session of Parliament would certainly be dented if Mr Yeddyurappa stays as Chief Minister. On the other hand, those favouring Mr Yeddyurappa say since the 68-year-old Chief Minister is the most prominent Lingayat leader of the BJP in Karnataka, the party should be wary of antagonising the community by removing him.

However, in signs of eroding support, the Lingayat mutts in Karnataka have slammed Mr Yeddyurappa saying he should be "above all suspicion." Speaking to NDTV, Sri Vishweshavani, the Chief Pontiff of Pejawar Mutt, said, "I am very upset that these allegations have come up against the CM. He should have been like Caesar's wife. Above all suspicion. At least we believed so."

The BJP now has to choose. Whether or not to sacrifice Mr Yeddyurappa, who has also delivered impressive gains for the BJP in the Lok Sabha and local elections, to be able to continue taking the high moral ground on corruption while attacking the Congress-led UPA at the Centre.

On Monday, BJP president Nitin Gadkari had said that the party would consider Mr Yeddyurappa's future after Mr Hegde's report was formally presented to the government.


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