The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday asked its first chief minister in south India, Karnataka’s B.S. Yeddyurappa, to step down after the state’s ombudsman indicted him in a large-scale mining scam, but till late evening a defiant Yeddyurappa had not complied.
The BJP leadership announced that it will Friday select a successor to Yeddyurappa.The 68-year-old Yeddyurappa was told Thursday morning to resign immediately after Lokayukta N. Sanosh Hegde sought his trial for graft in the huge illegal mining scam that has caused a loss of over Rs.16,000 crore to the state.
However, there was no indication from Yeddyurappa when he will quit as he kept himself busy meeting supporters through the day to firm up, as his loyalists told , conditions on which he will leave the office.The loyalists, requesting anonymity, said the chief minister wants to name a successor and have a major say in cabinet formation.
On Thursday evening, word spread that Yeddyurappa has sent his resignation to party president Nitin Gadkari but within minutes the report was denied by ministers close to the chief minister.
The BJP camp was a hub of activity with party in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan meeting groups of legislators to know their views ahead of a formal meeting Friday to elect a new leader of the legislature party.
Former party president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley will be the party central leadership’s observers for the meeting.Late Thursday, another former party president and Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, M. Venkaiah Naidu landed in Bangalore for talks with legislators and other state party leaders.
Though Dharmendra Pradhan was staying in a plush hotel close to Yeddyurappa’s residence on Race Course Road near the Vidhana Soudha (state secretariat), no meeting had taken place between the two.
Yeddyurappa did not stir out of the house since morning when party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad announced in Delhi the BJP parliamentary board’s decision to ask him to quit.Through the day, state party leaders and several ministers expressed their confidence that Yeddyurappa will abide by the “high command” decision.
State party chief K.S. Eshwarappa, Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar, party spokesperson C.T. Ravi were among those who said that Yeddyurappa would follow the party directive.
Higher Education Minister V.S. Acharaya said, “It is a question of time”.Eshwarappa and Ravi also hoped that Yeddyurappa will not leave the party.
“Ours is a national party, a disciplined party. No one has made any effort to vertically split the party. No one (who made attempt to split the party) has succeeded also,” Ravi said.
Among the names doing the rounds as the BJP’s new chief minister are Lok Sabha member D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who is former state unit head, Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar, Eshwarappa and party general secreatry H.N. Anantha Kumar, who is Lok Sabha member from Bangalore South.
Earlier, Eshwarappa told reporters: “As a loyal and disciplined member of the party, Yeddyurappa will obey the decision of the high command and resign soon. Though the chief minister explained his position on the mining issue to the party president (Nitin Gadkari) late Wednesday, Yeddyurappa has no alternative than to step down in conformity with the leadership’s decision.”
The first chief minister of the BJP in south India rushed to New Delhi late Wednesday night to brief Gadkari and other party leaders on the Karnataka Lokayukta’s (ombudsman) final investigation report on the multi-crore mining scam in the state over the years.
Discussions on the probe report and recommendations of the ombudsman (Justice N. Santosh Hegde) began around midnight and went on till early hours of Thursday at Gadkari’s residence. In line with the party’s policy decision earlier, Gadkari advised Yeddyurappa to step down immediately and pave way for the election of a new leader in his place.
The BJP, which came to power in Karnataka on its own for the first time in May 2008, has 22 more months to rule as the five-year term of the current state legislative assembly lasts till May 2013.
Even as the criminal involvement of Yeddyurappa in the mining scam became clear after a part of the probe report was leaked to the media July 21 and as Hegde told IANS last week, the party leadership decided to wait for the final report to be made public and find out if the chief minister’s prosecution was recommended under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
In a related development, the powerful Reddy brothers — Revenue Minister G. Karunakara and Tourism Minister G. Janardhana — and their close ally Health Minister B. Sriramulu also agreed to abide by the party’s leadership decision to remove Yeddyurappa.
The Reddy brothers and Sriramulu, who hail from the rich mining region of Bellary in north Karnataka, about 300 km from here, are among others against whom the ombudsman recommended prosecution for their criminal involvement in the mining scam.