Bangalore: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa Thursday suffered a double blow. The state Lokayukta blamed him and four of his ministers for illegal mining that has caused a Rs.1,827 crore loss to the exchequer in over a year, and the state high court lifted stay on proceedings against him in graft cases.
Besides Yeddyurappa, mining barons and ministers the Reddy brothers, Janata Dal-Secular leader H.D. Kumaraswamy and Congress MP Anil Lad were named by Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde in his report on illegal mining.
The 5,000-page report will be submitted Friday but the contents were leaked to the media late Wednesday.
Hegde Thursday confirmed the contents and apologized for the leak. He, however, asserted that the importance of his findings would not be affected by the leak.
But BJP Karnataka leaders disagreed. The state unit chief K.S. Eshwarappa said the leak was “shocking and the sanctity of the report is affected”.
The Congress stepped up its demand for Yeddyurappa’s immediate resignation as Hegde has named him in his report.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, tried to defend its first chief minister in south India by questioning the Congress on its action on the adverse findings by Delhi Lokayukta and the Shunglu panel on Commonwealth Games against its Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Yeddyurappa himself was away in Mauritius holidaying with his kin as the political storm was building up back home. He is to return July 24.
The high court has now allowed police to question him and his kin in five cases of graft – corruption and illegal land deals.
Justice K.N. Keshavanarayan cancelled the stay he had ordered on the trial court proceedings in the five complaints filed against Yeddyurappa, his two sons, son-in-law and others.
The judge had granted the stay in March on a petition by Yeddyurappa’s son-in-law R. Sohan Kumar challenging the trial court ordering police to probe the five complaints and submit a report.
The five complaints were filed in January by two Bangalore advocates Sirajin Bhasha and K.N. Balaraj after Governor H.R. Bhardwaj granted them permission to launch criminal proceedings against Yeddyurappa and others on charges of corruption and illegal land deals.
Besides Yeddyurappa, the advocates have named his two sons, B.Y. Raghavendra and B.Y. Vijayendra, son-in-law Sohan Kumar and several others in their complaints.
Raghavendra is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha member.
The high court ruling could not have come at a worse time for Yeddyurappa as he has to fight political and legal battles simultaneously and fend off possible dissidence within the state BJP. He has survived three rebellions in three years of his rule that began in May 2008.
Hegde, a retired judge of the Supreme Court whose five-year term as Lokayukta expires Aug 2, became emotional at the early morning press meet over the leak.
The report blames Yeddyurappa for not taking steps to check illegal mining even after the Lokayukta submitted a report on it in December 2008.
The report says chief minister’s sons, Raghavendra and Vijayendra had received a donation of Rs.10 crore to their “Prerana Education and Social Trust” from a mining firm involved in illegal mining. The two had also bought one acre land near Bangalore for Rs. Two crore but sold it to a mining firm for Rs. 20 crore.
Besides the Reddy brothers, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara, their associate, Health Minister B. Sreeramulu, is also said to be guilty of illegal mining.
The fourth BJP minister named in the report is V. Somanna, civil supplies, a confidante of Yeddyurappa.
Kumaraswamy, who was chief minister in the shortlived JD-S-BJP coalition in 2006-07, has been found to have granted mining license to two companies flouting rules.
Hegde said he had reason to believe that his phones had been tapped and this could have led to the leak of the report. None of his officers involved in preparing the report was responsible, he asserted.
Soon after Hegde confirmed the contents of the report, the Congress and BJP started sparring over continuation of Yeddyurappa in office.
“Now the report (by the state Lokayukta) finds direct evidence of crores of rupees changing hands directly at the door of the chief minister, his son, his family, his trusts. You have four ministers directly indicted,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters in New Delhi.
However, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar tried to put the Congress in the dock, citing the example of the Shunglu panel report on the Commonwealth Games scam.
“I am ready to discuss the reports which have already come. The report of Shunglu panel named Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, it has disappeared,” he said.
Hegde Thursday said he had reason to believe that his phones had been tapped and this could have led to the report being leaked.