No shame left

CHIEF MINISTERS OBDURACY

Just two months shy of completing three years in office, chief minister B S Yeddyurappa faces the sternest test of his tenure so far as some of the allegations of corruption and nepotism made against him and his family members will finally come under the microscope of the Lokayukta police.

The dissidence in his party, which raises its head like mushroom every two-three months has been activated once again under the leadership of state BJP president K S Eshwarappa and general secretary Ananth Kumar. But it may not rattle Yeddyurappa as much as the direction of the 23rd additional city civil and sessions court judge C B Hipparagi, who has asked the Lokyaukta police to investigate into some specific complaints and report back to him in six weeks.

Though the allegations are extremely serious — and allegations of this kind in a bygone era would have forced the chief minister to step down by now — Yeddyurappa was able to brazen it out as long as they remained ‘political’ in nature and aired by political opponents. There has never been a convincing reply to the 800-page ‘charge sheet’ prepared by the JD(S) and submitted to the Governor and the Lokayukta almost six months ago.

Even on the floor of the Assembly during the recent session, instead of answering how and why several crores of rupees’ donations were made to an educational trust and a land development company run by his sons and son-in-law, the chief minister tried to justify such donations pointing to other educational trusts run by opposition leaders. “I will expose all of them,” he thundered, without being able to shed any more light on his counter allegations.

When Lokayukta Santosh Hegde took up some of the allegations of land grabbing for investigation, Yeddyurappa hurriedly stymied it by announcing a parallel commission of inquiry by retired judge Padmaraj under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The Karnataka High Court has stayed the work of both the Lokyaukta and the commission in order to try and figure out as to whose jurisdiction takes precedence in conducting the investigation.

But, Yeddyurappa was not able to keep the genie bottled up for too long. Governor H R Bhardwaj, who too had received the complaints, had set the law in motion by according sanction under Article 202 of the Constitution for the prosecution of the chief minister. The Lokayukta special court of justice Hipparagi, which took up the complaints lodged with the governor has now begun the judicial process which, hopefully, will expeditiously conclude the guilt or otherwise of the chief minister.

Unlawful gain

Acting on the complaints filed by advocates Sirajuddin Basha and K N Balaraj and after hearing the parties both for and against, the court has referred three specific complaints to the Lokayukta police. In the first instance, the complainants had said that 1.12 acres in Rachenahalli village in Bangalore east taluk in the Arkavathy layout meant for the public was ‘illegally’ denotified by Yeddyurappa in 2006, when he held the portfolios of urban development and Bangalore Development Authority.

The agriculture land was subsequently converted to non-agricultural purpose and was sold to Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Vijayendra and son-in-law Sohan Kumar for Rs 40 lakh. They in turn sold the land to South West Mining Ltd for Rs 20 crore, giving them an ‘unlawful gain’ of Rs 19.6 crore, according to the complaint.

In the second instance, 1.6 acres on survey No 56 in Arkavathy layout was sold by former minister Krishnaiah Setty to Dhavalagiri Developers of which Vijayendra and Yeddyurappa’s another son, B Y Raghavendra were directors for Rs 60 lakh, against the market value of Rs 8 crore. The court, also taking cognisance of the allegations of land grabbing against home minister R Ashoka, has referred them to the Lokyaukta police for investigation.

When such serious charges are framed and inquiry ordered, it would have been in the fitness of things for both Yeddyurappa and Ashoka to resign as they have forfeited all moral right to continue in their respective offices. As home minister, since Ashoka oversees the functioning of the police department, can there be a free and fair inquiry by officers who technically come under him?

Fortunately, the institution of Lokyaukta is strong enough not to allow any interference in its functioning, but how can Yeddyurappa and Ashoka stick on to their chairs when their dubious dealings in this very government are being investigated?

Yeddyurappa’s own party leaders are asking if another minister under cloud, Katta Subramanya Naidu was forced to resign until his name was cleared, why is a different yardstick being followed in the case of the chief minister and the home minister? After the court passed the order, the chief minister said, “I welcome the judgment. I have belief in the court and the Lokayukta. I have nothing to comment on this. Let the investigation be carried out and I hope that the truth will come out.” Yeddyurappa’s name has become synonymous with obduracy and shamelessness.

Both the dissidents and the chief minister have approached the central leadership of the BJP, and as has been the case over the last few months, L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and others, have been unable to resolve the issue. As the logjam continues, it is the state’s administration which has been virtually brought to a standstill.

Will the central leadership of the BJP at least now shed its ostrich-like approach to the Karnataka crisis and take a decisive stand?

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