Politicians’ illegal mining links leave Karnataka battered (Lead News Analysis)

July 22nd, 2011 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, July 22 (IANS) Politicians’ deep involvement in illegal mining in Karnataka, as confirmed by Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde, shreds to pieces the state’s image and leaves its over 40 million voters wondering whom to elect next time with all the parties seeming equally complicit in the scam.

Most of the chief ministers the state has so far seen since independence had faced some charge of corruption or illegal acts, but none had confronted the kind of charges that the 19th and present Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is battling.

The list of charges against Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in south India is becoming lengthier with the years he completes in office he took in May 2008.

The charges include turning a blind eye to illegal mining, harbouring ministers accused of large-scale illegal mining not only in Karnataka but neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as well; favouring kin with prime land, offering money and plum posts to encourage defection from other parties, allowing his sons and son-in-law to financially benefit from firms involved in illegal mining.

While these allegations have made BJP’s claim of being “party with a difference” sound hollow, the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) too have their reputation muddied because of involvement of some of their leaders or prominent members in illegal mining, as documented by Hegde.

Hegde had recommended in December 2008 the recovery of over Rs.30 crore from former chief minister N. Dharam Singh (Congress). Singh, who was chief minister in the Congress-JD-S coalition in 2004-06, was held guilty of causing loss to the state by illegally allowing iron ore transactions.

However, no action could be initiated as then governor Rameshwar Thakur deleted Singh’s name from Hegde report.

Singh’s successor H. D. Kumaraswamy of JD-S is now held guilty by Hegde of granting license to two firms for iron ore mining by flouting rules.

Hegde has now also named Congress Rajya Sabha member and mining baron Anil Lad of involvement in illegal mining.

The Karnataka electorate faces the unenviable prospect of seeing Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy leading their parties in the next assembly elections. Though polls are due only in April-May 2013, the three parties are talking of early elections as Yeddyurappa may go for them, provided he survives the indictment from the Lokayukta.

The Congress could also be in for major embarrassment as there is speculation that Hegde might name another former Congress chief minister also in his report to be submitted early next week.

Karnataka has not had a stable government since the 2004 assembly polls’ split verdict. The last government that completed its five year term was that of the Congress in 1999-2004, lead by S.M.Krishna, now the external affairs minister.

Those five years were also the time that Bangalore zoomed to become India’s tech hub.

After the collapse of the Congress-JDS (2004-06) and JDS-BJP experiment (2006-07), the BJP rode to power with the promise of stable and corruption-free governance.

But in just three years, the party and its chief minister find themselves mired in unprecedented controversies and widespread graft at the highest level of the state executive.

With the state’s electorate having a limited choice of electing its next government from among these three parties, it can only hope that Karnataka will not be pushed down the drain further by the new rulers.

They also would be wishing that Hegde’s successor as Lokayukta will continue to be vigorous in exposing corruption at all levels.

Hegde’s five-year term ends Aug 2.

(V S Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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