Bangalore/New Delhi: Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj met President Pratibha Patil demanding removal of Reddy brothers, who are facing charges of illegal mining in Bellary, from the state Cabinet in New Delhi on Tuesday. The Governor briefed Patil on the situation in the state while an angry BJP called the Governor an agent of the Centre.
The grand Vidhana Soudha, the seat of power in Karnataka, has become a temporary shelter for over 80 Congress and JDS MLAs and MLCs. In an unprecedented form of protest, Opposition legislators, seeking a CBI probe into the alleged mining mafia run by BJP ministers, the Reddy brothers, have now started living in the Assembly.
Bhardwaj says "corrupt ministers must go" while his comments have invited almost an instant reaction from the ruling BJP which accused the Governor of bidding for a Congress government in the state. BJP general secretary Ravishankar Prasad said, "The Governor is acting like a Central agent."
The Centre too stepped in as the Union Law Minister Verappa Moily hinted action but did not commit on a CBI probe into the scam. Moily said, "Centre is looking at it."
Interestingly, the alleged villains in the story, Karunakara Reddy and Janardhana reddy, are more a headache for Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa than the Opposition. Yeddyurappa's authority has been questioned time and again by the cash rich ministers from Bellary. But the CM is dependent on them for his survival in the Assembly where he enjoys a wafer-thin majority.
Although Yeddyurappa has ruled out a CBI inquiry into the illegal mining the fierce Opposition attack on the government has created a serious political crisis in the state. The Opposition has decided to step up its attack on the BJP government and is also planning a long march to Bellary once the Assembly session ends.
Mutton biryani for lunch, singing of folk songs, small talk and siestas on Tuesday marked the second day of the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular legislators' sit-in in the Karnataka Assembly. Most of the 74 Congress and 27 JD-S members stayed overnight in the wood-panelled Assembly, after a dinner according to their tastes and returned the House after freshening up at their houses or at the legislators home to resume the sit-in. Breakfast was a choice between idlis and dosas.
Unlike Monday night, when some members had dinner in the House, meals on Tuesday were either in the lobby or in party offices as Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa accused the protesters of "lowering the dignity of the House by eating non-vegetarian food there". Congress leaders denied they had dinner in the House on Monday night. "We ate in the lobby, not inside the House," insisted Leader of Opposition Siddaramiah.
"We want a CBI probe. We demand justice", the members of the two parties chanted in unison as soon as the speaker K.G. Bopaiah entered the house Tuesday. Bopaiah pleaded with the members to take their seats and allow the proceedings to start. Finding no takers for his pleas amid shouting from ruling and opposition members, he adjourned the House soon after to meet on Wednesday.
The protesting legislators asserted that they will not call off the sit-in until the government agrees to a CBI probe. "We will not budge from our stand and continue the dharna till the government agrees for a CBI probe," Siddaramaiah told reporters.