Bangalore, July 17 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party and its new chief minister in Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar, face testing times with continued dissidence casting shadow over a crucial assembly session starting July 19.
That is also the day voting takes place to elect the next president of India, an additional burden on the BJP as it has to keep the dissidents in good humour to ensure they do not embarrass it by voting for the ruling United Progressive Alliance candidate Pranab Mukherjee.
The BJP is supporting former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma.
Shettar, BJP’s third chief minister in the state in four years of its maiden rule, has to get the 2012-13 budget, presented by his predecessor D.V. Sadananda Gowda, passed by July 30 to avoid financial chaos.
Gowda had taken a vote on account in the legislature till July 30, pending the budget’s approval.
Gowda was made to quit last Wednesday following a strident campaign by the BJP’s first chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who himself was forced out last July over mining bribery charges.
Shettar, who assumed office last Thursday, is also facing somewhat unexpected pressure over the delay in the appointment of a Lokayukta (ombudsman).
Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen Monday cautioned the government that if there was no satisfactory response within a week over the delay in the appointment, he might have to write to the governor that there was a constitutional crisis in the state.
The post has been vacant since last Sept 19 when Shivaraj Patil, a former Supreme Court judge, quit following a row over owning two sites in Bangalore from two cooperative housing societies.
Justice Sen’s caution came on a public interest petition seeking a direction to the government for the early appointment of the Lokayukta.
The Shettar government can plead for, and may be granted, more time by the high court on Lokayukta issue.
However, the chief minister is hopelessly dependent on a wavering BJP national leadership to see the dissidents do not leave him and the party itself with egg on the face by cross-voting in the presidential poll and creating hurdles in passing the budget.
The dissidents are already causing severe embarrassment to the party.
Claiming they are a group of 21 legislators out of BJP’s 120 in the 225-member assembly, the dissidents are rubbing it into party leadership by quoting Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, whose recall has been demanded by the party.
“The governor himself has said he was against inducting tainted legislators into the ministry. Still they have been taken in. They should be asked to quit and legislators who have worked for the party for a long time should be inducted,” Belur Gopalkrishna, a vocal member of the dissident group, has been going round saying.
The ‘tainted’ ministers are V. Sommnna (housing), Murugesh Nirani (industries), C.P. Yogeshwar (forests) and C.T. Ravi (higher education). Somanna, Nirani and Yogeshwar were in the Sadananda Gowda cabinet. Ravi is a new entrant.
Of the four, Somanna and Yogeshwar are new entrants to BJP having crossed over to it from Congress during Yeddyurappa’s rule.
All of them are fighting cases of alleged corruption and illegal land deals.
Adding to the anxious time for BJP and Shettar, Gopalkrishna late Monday met Janata Dal-Secular state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in Bangalore.
Though Gopalkrishna claimed that it was a “courtesy call”, speculation is rife in political circles that JDS might be wooing the disgruntled BJP legislators to its hold as elections to the assembly are due May next and may be held this year-end.
JDS president and former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda added his bit to keep the BJP on tenterhooks.
“They are welcome as long as they believe in secular ideals. No body is in touch with me. They may be in touch with Kumaraswamy,” he told reporters here Monday.
Kumaraswamy is Gowda’s son and became chief minister in 2006 by forming a coalition with BJP.
G. Karunakara Reddy, former minister and brother of jailed mining baron and former minister G. Janardhana Reddy, has assumed the leadership of the dissidents group in the BJP, shedding the low profile he had kept after his sibling’s arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation last September on charges of illegal mining.
“We are about 21 MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) and discussing all issues. We will announce decision July 18 or 19,” Reddy said Sunday, leaving enough room for BJP to broker a deal ahead of the presidential poll and start of the assembly session.
It looks like the BJP has to again deal with the ‘tainted’ mining barons’ family to save its government, adding another inglorious chapter to its scam-scarred rule in the state which it dreamt of being its route to govern south India.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)