Yeddyurappa faces prosecution for graft, refuses to quit (Intro-Roundup)

July 28th, 2011 - 1:24 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore/New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) Karnataka ombudsman N. Santosh Hegde Wednesday recommended the prosecution of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa for a multi-crore illegal mining in the state along with four ministers, plunging the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in crisis. A defiant Yeddyurappa ruled out resigning.

Yeddyurappa, 68, the BJP’s first chief minister in south India, arrived in Delhi Wednesday night to consult party leaders. The Congress went on the offensive, demanding that the chief minister should quit.

“I have recommended prosecution of everybody, including the chief minister, four cabinet ministers, a former chief minister, one Rajya Sabha MP and one MLA and hundreds of officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act for their involvement (in the mining scam),” former Supreme Court judge Hegde told reporters here.

A voluminous report submitted by him found that the exchequer lost a whopping Rs.16,085 crore (Rs.161 billion) due to illegal mining and export of iron ore from 2006 to 2010 in royalty, excise duty, value added tax and other levies.

The 25,228-page report also found Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, Tourism Minister G. Janaradhana Reddy, Health Minister B. Sriramulu and Housing Minister V. Somanna guilty of abetting illegal mining and export of thousands of tonnes of iron ore to China, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

“As Governor H.R. Bhardwaj is the only competent authority to order the prosecution of the chief minister under the Lokayukta Act, I have submitted the report and my recommendations for action,” Hegde said after the report was submitted to state Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath.

Former chief minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, who ordered the probe in March 2007 when he headed a coalition government with the BJP, was found guilty of granting mining leases to two companies in gross violation of the law.

The report also named Congress Rajya Sabha member Anil Lad and BJP legislator from Bellary, Narendra Babu, for their role in illegal mining.

About 100 mining firms and 787 officials, including those from the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service (IFS), were identified by name or designation for allowing illegal mining and export of iron ore for years.

The report found that the chief minister’s family, including son B.Y. Raghvendra, a Lok Sabha member of BJP from Shimoga, 270 km from Bangalore, benefiting from the mining scam.

Investigations found that a leading mining firm - South West Mining Co, owned by the Mumbai-based Jindal Group, donated Rs.10 crore to an education trust, Prerana Trust, floated by the chief minister’s family.

“The donation was made by the company by borrowing funds from others (after gaining benefits) in illegal mining (of) iron ore and exporting the material,” Hegde said.

The chief minister’s family was found guilty of selling an acre of land near Bangalore to the mining company for a whopping Rs.20 crore, when the state-run guidance value was Rs.1 crore.

Although some of the report’s contents were known, Hegde’s formal media briefing triggered a storm in Karnataka — and a crisis in the BJP, which wanted to use the state government as a gateway to southern India.

The BJP failed to come to the beleaguered chief minister’s defence.

In New Delhi, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: “It will take some time to go through the voluminous report. After that we can take some decision.”

However Yeddyurappa, who went into a huddle with legal experts and several of his ministerial and party colleagues at his residence in Bangalore after the report came, ruled out resigning.

“The question of resigning does not arise,” he told media persons on his arrival in Delhi.

He said he was going to party president Nitin Gadkari’s house to discuss the issue and would return to Bangalore Thursday. Party leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh are also expected to be present at the meeting at Gadkari’s house.

Before leaving Bangalore, he said the report “needs detailed study”.

“Also, most of the cases referred to by Lokayukta are in court,” he told reporters at the Bangalore airport before leaving for Delhi.

Hegde hoped that the Supreme Court, already hearing a public interest petition on illegal mining in the iron ore rich district of Bellary, would take his report seriously.

The Congress asked Yeddyurappa to go.

“Yeddyurappa is wasting time. If he and the BJP have any moral values, he should resign immediately,” Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad said.

“The report is very clear. The Lokayukta has convincingly detailed the omissions and commissions of Yeddyurappa, who also holds the mining and several other ministers,” Hariprasad said.

The Congress leader recalled that Yeddyurappa had said he would resign if an inquiry found him guilty.

Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed added: “Yeddyurappa is the most corrupt chief minister independent India has seen.”

Hegde submitted his first report Dec 18, 2008 with recommendations to take action against all stakeholders involved in the scam. But the government did not act on the report.

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