Mid-term poll question haunts Yeddyurappa (Letter from Bangalore)

By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Sunday, February 20, 2011

BANGALORE - Every action of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa these days turns into a question that haunts him, the latest being that is he readying for a mid-term assembly poll.

Since October-November last year the Bharatiya Janata Party’s first chief minister in south India has been waging a survival battle over allegations of corruption and illegal land deals.

The talk of mid-term poll began soon after the scandals allegedly involving him surfaced. The speculation has been gaining momentum, notwithstanding repeated denials by him.

Yeddyurappa, who holds the finance portfolio, has not helped the situation with his recent decisions.

The chief minister announced he will present the state budget on Feb 24, four days ahead of the presentation of the national budget in parliament.

The practice has been for the states to prepare their budgets after it becomes clear what the national budget has to offer them.

Yeddyurappa went a step further - he will present a separate agriculture budget, perhaps the first state government to do so. Both would be tabled in the assembly Feb 24.

Only the Indian Railways have own budget. It is presented in parliament ahead of the national budget.

Yeddyurappa has also announced that the highlight of the agricultural budget would be loan to farmers at one percent interest rate.

He has hinted that he would not burden the people with fresh taxes in the general budget.

And he and his party are organizing a rally here Sunday to be addressed by party president Nitin Gadkari.

Yeddyurappa and state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa have been repeatedly telling the media that the rally would be attended around 250,000 party workers and supporters from across the state.

“If not preparation for a mid-term poll, what else are these for - presenting state budget ahead of national budget, separate agriculture budget and the Sunday’s rally,” ask opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular parties.

The assembly still has about 27 months of its five year term. The last elections which brought BJP to power were held in May 2008.

The mid-term poll talk is combined with speculation over how long Yeddyurappa will retain his chair following Governor H.R. Bhardwaj granting permission to prosecute him over alleged corruption and illegal land deals.

Five complaints have been filed against Yeddyurappa in a Bangalore court by two advocates after they got Bhardwaj’s permission.

The court is yet to take cognizance of the complaints and the next hearing is on Feb 28.

Yeddyurappa has so far resisted demands for his resignation and BJP central leaders have gone along with him.

But both might find it difficult to stick to this stand if the court takes cognizance of the complaints.

Also hanging over Yeddyurappa’s and the assembly’s future is the Supreme Court decision on the disqualification of 11 BJP law makers.

Five Independent law makers, who were also disqualified with the 11 in October last year for rebelling against Yeddyurappa, would soon be taking their case to the apex court.

The state high court has upheld the disqualification of all the 16.

If the Supreme Court decision goes in favour of the disqualified lawmakers, Yeddyurappa would be voted out as his ministry would lose majority support in the 225-member assembly, including one nominated.

If the apex court upholds the disqualification, then by-polls to the seats would have to be held. There is no guarantee that BJP would win majority of these seats.

Yeddyurappa now has a thin majority of about six votes in the house whose effective strength has been reduced to 206 with 19 vacancies, 16 from the disqualification and three other law makers resigned subsequently.

As of now Yeddyurappa and BJP have been maintaining that he would remain chief minister for the remaining term of the assembly and there is no question of mid-term poll.

However, it is the judiciary that holds the key to Yeddyurappa’s future.

His party can at best allow him to advance budget dates and hold rallies to be ready for a mid-term poll if Yeddyurappa digs in his heels and insists on going to the people instead of resigning if the courts’ decision goes against him.

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

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