Yediyurappa’s shocking bid to shield the Reddys

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: It is now clear as crystal.

Either the chief minister of Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa, is mortally afraid of annoying the Reddy brothers, lest it cost him his chair. Or, he and the bigwigs in the BJP have a stake, direct or indirect, in the illegal mining happening on either side of the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border.

This is the only inescapable inference one can draw from Yediyurappa’s dogged refusal to agree for a CBI probe into the illegal mining operations, which the Centre is desirous of having.

Yeddiyurappa, mind you, is not required to initiate the process of a CBI enquiry on his own.

Such a step has already been taken by his AP counterpart, K. Rosaiah.

Acting on the recommendation of a committee constituted by the Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter, Rosiah has called for a CBI proble, notwithstanding the fact (or probably because of the fact) that one of the Reddy brothers, Gali Janaradhana Reddy, was a dear friend of the late AP CM, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

In a virtual indictment of the Reddys, the central empowerment committee said that the illegal mining be stopped in the six mines in Obulapuram and Siddapuram villages of Anantpur district, and that mining activities be resumed only after a demarcation of the boundaries of the mining leases was completed.

It is this reference to the demarcation of the boundaries in the report of the CEC which brings Karnataka into the picture.

The mines are located on the border areas and the allegation is that the company owned by the Reddys has encroached upon the mineral-rich areas outside their mining leases and is carrying out large scale illegal mining in the unclothed reserved forest areas.

The Centre is inclined to accede to AP’s request for a CBI probe and it wants a formal concurrence from Karnataka to start the CBI enquiry.

But Yediyurappa is dillydallying in the matter and has been stonewalling the request.

It is true that the Reddys officially have no mining leases in their name in Karnataka. All their mining operations are conducted in the name of the company—Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC)—located on the other side of the border in Andhra Pradesh.

But the fact remains that the Reddys have emerged as the movers and shakers of Karnataka from the financial clout that they have acquired through mining over the years. Several mine owners of Bellary openly talk of how the Reddys intimidate or overpower the lesser lot and dominate the mining activities.

One such person, Tapal Ganesh, whose family has been in the mining operations for over three generations, has taken the issue up to the Supreme Court.

In his application he has said, inter alia, that the OMC:

“…is owned by influential and politically powerful persons. Its managing director Janardhana Reddy is a cabinet minister in the Karnataka government and who is also involved in business partnership with the son of the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The OMC has encroached upon mineral-rich areas outside their mining leases and is carrying out large scale illegal mining in unallotted reserved forest areas.”

Yediyurappa’s stand is surprising on three counts.

One, whether Karnataka agrees or not, it cannot preclude CBI from looking into OMC’s activities in the State because of the reference to the illegal mining activities. It would be graceful if Karnataka agrees. Otherwise Karnataka would lose grace as CBI, by the very nature of its mandate, can press ahead with the investigation regardless.

There are already reports that the CBI team has visited Karnataka to collect lot of documents required for the  enquiry.  And the report of the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka, which Karnataka wants to push under the carpet, provides enough grist to the CBI mill.

Secondly, it was the BJP group, which had vociferously demanded a CBI inquiry when Janardhana Reddy, then a first time legislator, had hurled charges of  corruption in the mining activities against the then CM, H.D. Kumaraswamy, during the BJP-JDS coalition in the days preceding the 2008 elections.

Thirdly, as a leader of the opposition, claiming to champion the cause of the people, Yediyurappa was prone to demanding a CBI probe at the drop of hat and used to slamming governments which did not accede.

But the illegal mining issue is more serious than all the issues on which Yediyurappa had demanded a CBI probe in the past. This is such a serious issue that no CM would have said “no” in the first place. As a matter of fact, the onus of demanding the CBI enquiry should have been on Yediyurappa  himself.

But he is weakly trying to stall the matter.

Or is it that Yediyurappa wants the CBI enquiry without officially appearing to be favouring it as a matter of strategy to deal with his bete noire, the Reddys?

Nothing can be ruled out in the mercurial nature of the internal politics of the BJP, where the wounds left by the Reddy sponsored rebellion against Yediyurappa have yet to begin to heal.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook