Will Yeddyurappa 'bare all' on Reddys' mining activities?

The session is the first to be held after Yeddyurappa survived last month's revolt against him by Janardhana Reddy, his elder brother Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and their associate Health Minister B. Sriramulu.

The 10-day meeting is being held against the backdrop of raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Reddys' firm, Obulapuram Mining Company, to probe allegations of illegal mining activity.

The CBI probe was sought by neighbouring Andhra Pradesh government as most of the mining activity of OMC is in that state. The CBI team searched the OMC offices in Bellary, about 400 km from here, on Dec 10 and 11.

Teams of Indian Bureau of Mines have also surveyed Bellary and neighbouring Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh to determine illegal mining in both the districts and in the surrounding forest area.

Yeddyurappa has refused to seek a CBI probe into the activities of his financially and politically powerful ministers, asserting there was no illegal mining in Karnataka.

He, however, has promised to give detailed information on mining in the state in the legislature session. His promise is in response to the strident attack by the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular parties against him for not seeking a CBI probe.

State Congress spokesperson V.S. Ugrappa has charged that Yeddyurappa and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj are benefiting financially from the Reddy brothers' illegal activities and hence the chief minister was reluctant to go for a CBI probe.

The Congress and JD-S have also sought sacking of the Reddy brothers' and Sriramulu from the Yeddyurappa ministry.

State Congress president R.V. Deshpande and leader of the Congress in the assembly Siddaramaiah have called Yeddyurappa 'number one liar' for his defence of the Reddy brothers.

Yeddyurappa's stock response to these attacks has been he would 'bare-all' regarding the mining sector in the session. He has been maintaining that since he took over as chief minister in May 2008 he has not issued a single mining licence whereas the Congress and the JD-S chief ministers before him, N. Dharam Singh and H.D. Kumaraswamy, had issued dozens of licences during their tenure in 2004-2006 and 2006-2007, respectively.

Whether Yeddyurappa gives a full picture of the mining activity of his ministers or merely repeats his stand, he would be under intense pressure as the state Ombudsman (Lokayukta) has submitted a 2,000-page report last year detailing the extent of illegal mining in the state, including in Bellary.

The report details purported illegal mining by the Reddys' firm. It has also held the company guilty of erasing the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh borderline by building a road to transport the iron ore.

The session will be adjourned for a week after the first day in view of the Dec 18 biennial polls to 25 legislative council seats. The counting of votes is on Dec 21 and the results are likely to add heat to the house proceedings.

The Congress and JD-S are fighting the polls in alliance in a bid to prevent the BJP from gaining majority in the 75-member upper house of the legislature.

The Congress is contesting 19 seats and JD-S six, though the latter has fielded candidates for two more seats where it will be a 'friendly fight' of the alliance partners.

At present, the Congress and the BJP have 28 seats each and the JD-S 12. Of the remaining seven, one is chairman of the council, Janata Dal-United has one and Independents three. Two seats from the legislative assembly quota are vacant.

Of the 25 seats that go to polls, the Congress had 19, the BJP four, JD-S one. The remaining one seat is vacant.

With 19 of its members retiring, the Congress has to retain all the seats and its alliance partner JD-S also has to put up an impressive show to prevent the BJP from gaining majority.

Polling will be held in 23 constituencies as Congress and BJP have bagged one seat each unopposed.

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