Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dump him or dump him not: Yeddi leaves BJP in knots | Firstpost

Yeddyurrappa, BJP’s headache for sometime now is fast turning out to be its Achilles’ heel. The recent developments in Karnataka not only throw serious questions on the quality of the first BJP ministry down South but also threaten to compromise the party’s credibility at the national level. The party has gambled too much on a chief minister with too many skeletons in the cupboard and dubious records at governance; it would find it difficult to wriggle out now.

The dilemma shows. The party is yet to come out with a proper response to Lokayukta Santosh Hegde’s allegation that a senior BJP leader urged him to drop Yeddyurappa’s name from the report on the Bellary mining scam. It was silent when the chief minister invited his principal political opponent and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy to a ‘truth test’ before Lord Manjunathaswamy. As the chief minister keeps hopping from one embarrassment to the other, the party’s halo of self-righteousness keeps slipping. Its grandstanding on issues like corruption also looks like a vacuous game of moral double standards.

The BJP has to swim or sink with Yeddyurappa. Dibyangshu Sarkar/ AFP Photo

The mining scam was expected to blow up on the party’s face at some point. It is not possible that it was not aware of the ground realities in Karnataka. It was either trying to bluff its way through or was brow-beaten by Yeddyurappa to fall in line. In both cases, it ends up looking miserable.

The Lokayukta’s report, if what’s coming out in the media is true, is indeed damning. It leaves the BJP with no escape route. The size of the scam is big – Rs 1,827 crore in just 14 months – and it involves not only Yeddyurappa but also four of his cabinet ministers. What makes matters worse is the chief minister holds the mining portfolio. The report says he is charged on two counts. One of the charges is specific: dues of nearly Rs 118 crore, owed by a private mining firm, were waived without any justification. The other one has to do with sale of land by the firm owned by his son and son-in-law to a mining company at 20 times the market rate.

Tourism Minister Janaradhana Reddy and BJP MLA Anand Singh, the report says, turned Bellary’s mining zone into a major hub off illegal iron ore export. The racket thrived on circumvention of all permit and licensing rules.

The mining scandal, thus, threatens to engulf the whole of the BJP in the state. That former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy also figures in the report is no solace to the party. It has to protect its own credibility for its political future in the state.

The predicament of the national leadership is unique. It has to swim or sink with Yeddyurappa. The chief minister carries the support of a good number of MLAs with him and he has not shown the inclination to buckle under pressure from the top. During the serious debate over leadership change in the state a few months ago, he had virtually resorted to a show of strength. The national leadership had to appease him by not replacing him.

If it fails to replace him immediately, it runs the risk of being called hypocritical. The BJP has been relentless in its attack on the Congress and the UPA over the issue of corruption. It has been aggressive in taking the moral high ground on the issue. The Karnataka affairs threaten to expose its ambiguity.

The party has been dodging the issue for a long time. It can escape no longer because the implication of the developments in Karnataka is going to be huge politically. The Lokayukta’s report is likely to trigger immediate reaction from the Opposition. That the Congress is waiting to pounce on the opportunity was evident on Wednesday when the party’s spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed blasted the BJP leadership for remaining mum on Hegde’s allegation against Yeddyurappa. The political attack is only going to be worse in the coming days.

It’s a choice the BJP has to make now.

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