Rift rocks first BJP government in south, Jaitley arrives for patch-up

October 28th, 2009 - 7:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Oct 28 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party’s first government in Karnataka and south India was in deep trouble Wednesday with two ministers, who are also mining barons, intensifying efforts to make chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa toe their line.
The BJP central leadership rushed senior leader Arun Jaitley to Bangalore to contain the growing rebellion against Yeddyurappa over his alleged dictatorial functioning style.

Jaitley met Yeddyurappa soon after landing in Bangalore Wednesday afternoon even as the two mining magnates, tourism minister G. Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother and revenue minister G. Karunakara Reddy, defied the chief minister over rehabilitation work in flood hit north Karnataka.

Jaitley parried questions from reporters and said “everything will be fine”.

The Reddy brothers launched a programme in their iron-ore rich home district Bellary, about 400 kms from here, to build 50,000 houses for the flood hit from the money they and other mine owners in the state have contributed.

They went ahead with the programme ignoring Yeddyurappa’s plea not make the rehab work their own but a collective effort of the government. The Reddy brothers did not invite Yeddyurappa to the ‘bhumi puja’ (groundbreaking ceremony).

Yeddyurappa hit back by transferring five officials said to be close to the Reddy brothers and their loyalist and health minister B. Sriramulu.

The officials include deputy commissioner and police superintendent of Bellary, B. Shivappa and Seemanth Kumar Singh, respectively, and health secretary I.R. Perumal.

Yeddyurappa defended the decision to transfer saying he wanted to post ‘good officials’ to ensure proper flood rehab work. “It does not mean these officials are not good,” he added.

The transfer orders were issued while the ‘bhumi puja’ was on in Bellary where the deputy commissioner was present.

Taking exception to the transfers, Janardhana Reddy charged Yeddyurappa with being anti-Dalit as Shivappa and Perumal belong to Scheduled Castes.

Reddy also ridiculed Yeddyurappa for his statements that his appeal to the public for generous donation for flood relief work has brought in Rs.1,000 crore.

“He went round with ‘jolige’ (begging bowl) and has got some Rs.40 crore or Rs.50 crore. But he is going round saying he has raised Rs.1,000 crore. These must be mere promises only,” Reddy said sarcastically addressing the people at the ‘bhumi puja’.

“But we, mine owners, have raised Rs.500 crore to build 50,000 houses for the flood-hit,” he said.

The Reddy brothers want Yeddyurappa to give them a free hand in running their ministries, final say in transfer of officials in their ministries and in several northern districts where they wield influence and ending alleged interference in their work by ministers close to the chief minister.

They are also against appointment of industrialist and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar as head of the panel to oversee flood relief and rehab work.

The Sep 30-Oct 2 rains and flash floods killed over 220 people and damaged over 500,000 houses leaving over a million homeless.

The Reddy brothers have not responded to Yeddyurappa’s appeals to come for talks to sort out their grievances.

Instead they are propping up assembly speaker Jagadish Shettar as a successor to Yeddyurappa.

On Tuesday, some ministers and legislators supporting the Reddy brothers met Shettar, a prominent BJP leader who, like Yeddyurappa, belongs to the politically powerful Lingayat community.

Shettar hails from Dharwad district, about 420 kms from here. It is also in north Karnataka, an area where BJP enjoys considerable support.

Shettar is unhappy with Yeddyurappa as he was denied a cabinet berth when the party came to power for the first time in Karnataka and south in May 2008.

He reluctantly agreed to become the speaker as he was promised by the party central leadership that he would be made a minister at a later date.

Jaitley is likely to meet the Reddy brothers and their supporters during his stay here.

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