Land, mining and sex scandals mar Karnataka’s image (2010 in Retrospect)By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Thursday, December 30, 2010
BANGALORE - Three topics dominated Karnataka in 2010 - polls, political instability and scandals over land, mining and sex.
More than half the state, 17 of 30 districts, will end the year voting for the taluka (sub-district) and zilla (district) panchayat elections Dec 31.
Gulbarga district will have the distinction of beginning 2011 by voting for these panchayats. The other 12 districts had voted Dec 26.
But the New Year is set to start on an acrimonious note with results being announced Jan 4. If the party performs poorly, knives will be again be out to oust B.S. Yeddyurappa, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in south India.
The opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular are determined to rile Yeddyurappa and several ministers over land and mining scandals in the legislature session starting Jan 6.
There is a distinct possibility of intensified confrontation between Governor H.R. Bhardwaj and the ruling party as he has to read out a speech Jan 6 to a joint sitting of the assembly and council to mark their first session in 2011.
Bhardwaj has been lashing out at Yeddyurappa in public for allegedly favouring his kin with prime land in and around Bangalore.
The governor has also been demanding that the chief minister take action against powerful mining barons and ministers Reddy brothers and their associate Health Minister B. Sriramulu over alleged illegal iron ore mining.
As the year was ending, he got a new issue to hammer at Yeddyurappa - charging the Reddy brothers, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara, and Sriramulu with evading income tax of around Rs.86 crore.
The constitution requires the governor to read out the speech prepared by the government, listing its achievements to the first sitting of the legislature in the year.
With Bhardwaj declaring publicly that he was not happy with the functioning of the government and Yeddyurappa’s failure to explain his land dealings, the governor may demand changes in the speech - which would be opposed by the BJP.
While the chief minister has been mild in his criticism of Bhardwaj, his party colleagues have been calling him a ‘Congress agent’. An attempt by Bhardwaj to change the speech could turn out to be a major constitutional issue.
With this not-so-pleasant scenario at the beginning of the new year, people of Karnataka have to forget 2010 that saw Yeddyurappa almost losing his chair to rebel activity, Haratalu Halappa quitting the ministry over charges of raping his friend and Ramachandra Gowda resigning in disgrace over irregularities in recruitment to medical colleges.
The 2010 winter dawned with Yeddyurappa’s land deals rolling out - he allotted a residential site in an upscale Bangalore locality to his Lok Sabha member son B.Y. Raghavendra, who gave a false declaration that he did not have residential property in the city while owning one.
Then came a series of allegations that Yeddyurappa favoured his other son, daughters, a son-in-law, a sister, her daughter and son-in-law with land.
The year-end polls came in handy to Yeddyurappa to buy time from the party central leadership, which found his dealings a major embarrassment when it was training guns on the central government over the 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games and other scandals.
Other scandals also erupted in the state.
Self-styled Hindu godman Nityananda Swami did his time in jail for his alleged romps with his women disciples. He is out on bail but facing charges of raping women and even boys.
The year was also witness to a high-profile resignation episode - Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde, a retired Supreme Court judge, quit as he was upset with Yeddyurappa’s handling of the illegal mining issue.
Hegde was, however, persuaded to stay by senior BJP leader L.K. Advani. Later, BJP president Nitin Gadkari muddied the waters further by saying the ombudsman was behaving like an opposition leader.
Karnataka was hit by the worst air tragedy in 10 years in the country when Air India Express flight from Dubai crashed at Mangalore airport May 22, killing 158 of the 160 passengers and six crew members.
Despite the downslide in the political plane, the nation’s IT hub hosted two high-profile diplomatic visits - British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
But US President Barack Obama skipped Bangalore on his first official visit to India.
With repeated attempts by the US to impose some restriction or the other on outsourcing and the state political drama at its peak, there was not any disappointment at Obama giving a miss to Bangalore.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])