Yeddyurappa finally told to quit, seeks time till July 31 (Intro Roundup)

July 29th, 2011 - 1:13 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore/New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday asked its first chief minister in south India, Karnataka’s B.S. Yeddyurappa, to step down after being indicted in a large-scale mining scam, but the defiant chief minister relented only after several hours and sought time till July 31.

In the meantime, the ruling BJP has convened a meeting of its legislators in Karnataka Friday to elect a new leader.

The chief minister, known for his proclivity for religious rituals, decided on July 31 as “according to the Hindu calendar, this Ashadha month from July 2-30 is considered inauspicious to take any important decision”, an official at the chief minister’s office told IANS late Thursday.

“The chief minister has conveyed to the BJP leadership that he would resign July 31, as directed by the party’s parliamentary board in New Delhi earlier in the day,” the official said.

The BJP’s first chief minister in south India was Wednesday indicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, by state Lokayukta (ombudsman) Justice N. Santosh Hegde for his direct involvement in the multi-crore mining scam in the state as he was also in-charge of the mines department.

Despite the direction from the party leadership to quit, Yeddyurappa remained defiant. The beleaguered chief minister remained huddled in his official residence throughout the day, on returning from New Delhi earlier, with about 50 loyal legislators, a couple of ministers and scores of supporters.

But in the meanwhile, the party’s state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa told reporters that Yeddyurappa would abide by the party’s leadership to quit at the earliest.

The 68-year-old Yeddyurappa gave in finally by evening. Eshwarappa has called a meeting of the BJP legislature party Friday to elect the new leader in the presence of the party’s senior leaders Arun Jaitely and Rajnath Singh from New Delhi as observers.

“I have sent letters to all our 120 legislators in the state to be present in Bangalore for the legislature party meeting Friday and extend their stay till Sunday for discussing the formation of the next government,” Eshwarappa said.

In the 225-member state legislative assembly, including one nominated member, the ruling BJP has 121 lawmakers, including the speaker, while the opposition Congress has 72, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) 26 and six are Independents.

According to a party source privvy to the day-long confabulations the chief minister had with his loyalists, Yeddyurappa had put forth three conditions for resigning: electing party’s senior leader D.V. Sadananda Gowda as his successor, a major say in the formation of the next cabinet, and the post of party state unit president for himself.

Gowda, who belongs to the strong Vokkaliga forward community in the state, is a Lok Sabha member from Udupi-Chikmaglur constituency.

“The party leadership has, however, directed Yeddyurappa to first resign unconditionally, as his continuation has become untenable after the ombudsman recommended his prosecution under the Karnataka Lokayutka Act, 1984,” the source told IANS.

The chief minister’s threat to split the party and dissolve the assembly for a mid-term poll also did not find favour with the senior ministers and majority of legislators as they were unwilling to face the electorate and feared a spell of president’s rule by state Governor H.R. Bhardwaj.

With reason and wiser counsel prevailing, the belligerent chief minister relented to cancel a state cabinet meeting he convened in the late afternoon.

Other leaders in the race and whose names are doing rounds in the party circles for the chief minister’s post are BJP general secretary and Lok Sabha member from Bangalore South Ananth Kumar, Rural Development Minister Jagdish Shettar, Home Minister R. Ashoka, Higher Education Minister V.S. Acharya and Eshwarappa.

In a related development, another general secretary and in-charge of party’s affairs in the state Dharmendra Pradhan began seeking opinion of legislators on the choice of next chief minister.

Late Thursday, a former party president and Rajya Sabha member from the state, M. Venkaiah Naidu arrived in Bangalore for talks with legislators and other state party leaders.

The powerful Reddy brothers — Revenue Minister G. Karunakara and Tourism Minister G. Janardhana — and their close ally Health Minister B. Sriramulu also agreed to abide by the party’s leadership decision to remove Yeddyurappa.

The Reddy brothers and Sriramulu, who hail from the rich mining region of Bellary in north Karnataka, about 300 km from here, are among others against whom the ombudsman recommended prosecution for their criminal involvement in the mining scam.
The huge illegal mining scam that has caused a loss of over Rs.16,000 crore to the state.

The BJP, which came to power in Karnataka on its own for the first time in May 2008, has 22 more months to rule as the five-year term of the current state legislative assembly lasts till May 2013.

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