NEW DELHI/BANGALORE: The Karnataka Governor, Mr H R Bhardwaj on Tuesday asked for the removal of the controversial Reddy brothers from the state ministry on allegations of “illegal mining,” a demand that riled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which hit back at him saying he was acting as a “rank agent” of Congress.
The issue, which has already rocked the Karnataka legislature for the last two days, escalated into a full scale war between the BJP and the Congress. The Reddy brothers also threatened to take legal action against the Governor for his remarks against them.
The Chief Minister, Mr B S Yeddyurappa ruled out a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining by the Bellary brothers – Tourism Minister, Mr G Janardhana Reddy and Revenue Minister, Mr G Karunakara Reddy and offered to get it investigated by the state Lok Ayukta.
After a meeting with the President, Ms Pratibha Patil, Mr Bhardwaj told reporters in Delhi that he has asked the Chief Minister to take action against the two ministers.
Without taking their names he questioned their continuance in the ministry. “He (Chief Minister) is a person who realises the problem. I told him you have appointed them as ministers. Take action against them. He says I need time. He doesn’t say it is not happening,” the Governor said.
He said he has taken serious note of the issue and has told the Chief Minister of his concern and to the central government. “It is whether ministers can indulge in this kind of corrupt practices. Whether they can continue as ministers and will continue to do illegal mining and make profits. It is a big issue of integrity and probity of holders of high office,” he said in remarks that angered the BJP. Suggesting a CBI inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining, he said he would meet the Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram on Wednesday and apprise him of the latest situation. Mr Bhardwaj said it was a big issue and he has already referred the issue (disqualification of the brothers) to the Election Commission for a decision.
The BJP was quick to unleash an attack on Mr Bhardwaj. BJP spokesperson, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad said Mr Bhardwaj should decide whether to uphold the sanctity of the constitutional office or act as an agent of the Congress.
“We deeply regret that the Raj Bhawan in Karnataka is becoming an instrument to bring Congress into power in the state through the backdoor,” he said. The BJP said Mr Bhardwaj had no right to speak about probity in public life. “If he is interested in rooting out corruption, he should start with his campaign in the central government first,” its spokesperson said.
Mr Prasad said, “We do not have to learn lessons of probity from the Governor.” He questioned his actions during his tenure as law minister in UPA-I, alleging that he had helped Bofors accused Ottavio Quottrochi. “We want to caution the Governor to please recognise and respect the limitations of the Governor’s office. Else we will be constrained to act,” Mr Prasad said.
When asked if BJP would demand Mr Bhardwaj’s recall, Mr Prasad said he has only opened “one card” now and “all options are open.” In Bangalore, both the Houses of Karnataka legislature remained paralysed for the second day on Tuesday with the Opposition continuing their protests in support of their demand for a CBI inquiry into the illegal mining issue.
After spending their night in the legislature premises on Monday night, the Opposition members continued their protests on Tuesday leading to adjournment of both the Houses without transaction of any business. The Opposition legislators braced themselves stay of one more night in the legislature premises on Tuesday night.
However, Mr Yeddyurappa rejected the demand for CBI probe and said the on-going inquiry by the Lok Ayukta, who has been given more powers now, would continue. Union Law Minister, Mr M Veerappa Moily contended that if the Chief Minister was in the clear and was not feeling “intimidated” by the brothers he should order a CBI inquiry inquiry because the issue involves more than one state.
AICC spokesperson, Mr Manish Tewari said Mr Yeddyurappa would be unable to take action against Reddy brothers given their linkages with the top BJP leadership. “Unfortunately the pernicious writ of the Reddy brothers runs very deep into the vitals of the BJP. Their linkages extend right to the top of the BJP,” he said. Mr Tewari also attacked the BJP for making critical comments about constitutional functionaries like the Governor.