Yeddyurappa completes two years, hopes remaining term will be smooth

Bangalore, May 30 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first government in Karnataka completes two years Sunday with the party and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa praying that dissidence which made him shed tears in public and the scandals that sullied the image of the government do not recur.

Bookanakere Siddalingaiah Yeddyurappa assumed office on May 30, 2008 leading the party to near majority in the 225-member (includes one nominated) assembly in a bitterly fought assembly polls.

Yeddyurappa, who turned 67 in February, has had a rough ride. The second year almost ended his rule when the billionaire mining barons and ministers, the Reddy brothers of iron-ore rich Bellary district, revolted in October-November seeking greater role for themselves and their supporters in the party and government.

Life for the people, including in the famed tech hub of the nation and the state’s capital Bangalore, has not been easy either.

Unprecedented power cuts and drinking water scarcity in a particularly harsh summer this year in Bangalore and most parts of the state has prompted the people and the government to ardently look forward to plentiful monsoons, expected to hit Karnataka in the first week of June.

Pre-monsoon showers in the second half of May have not brought any relief as demand for power remains in excess of the supply by over 30 million units a day in Bangalore alone. The state is heavily dependent on hydro-power and its only major thermal power plant has been plagued by technical snags with as many as four of its seven units functioning irregularly adding to the misery.

Apart from dissidence, the BJP has also been rocked by two major sex scandals, one involving a minister and another a legislator who forced his way into the Yeddyurappa ministry even while criminal cases against him were being heard in the court.

The chief minister bought peace with the Reddy brothers, Tourism minister G. Janardhana Reddy and elder sibling Revenue minister G. Karunakara Reddy, by sacrificing his confidante and the lone woman in his ministry, Shobha Karandlage. He also shunted out a trusted bureaucrat, a senior officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), who was his principal secretary, and agreed to post in Bellary civil and police officials handpicked by the Reddy brothers.

Yeddyurappa yielded again, making a legislator M.P. Renukacharya, accused of sexual harassment by a nurse, a minister as he had aligned with the Reddy brothers during their rebellion. Renukacharya and the nurse Vijayalakshmi have since reached a compromise.

The BJP’s reputation and the chief minister’s image took a severe beating in the first week of May when Haratalu Halappa, food and civil supplies minister, was forced to quit after he was accused of raping his friend’s wife in her house in Shimoga in November last year. Halappa, a second time legislator, is now in judicial custody and facing cases relating to rape, criminal intimidation and harassment.

The political discourse in the second year of Yeddyurappa’s rule also hit the nadir with the former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular president H.D. Deve Gowda calling the chief minister ‘bloody b….’, not once but twice, topping the abuse with ‘son of a b….’ in Kannada.

Deve Gowda’s son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, now a Lok Sabha member, early this month asked people in the flood-ravaged north Karnataka areas to ‘kick’ the chief minister and his ministers if they visit those places because he alleged rehabilitation work was poor. Over 170 people died and half a million were left homeless in the three days of torrential rain and flash floods in October-November last year.

To the BJP and Yeddyurappa’s relief neither the dissidence nor the scandals, not even the severe difficulties from power shortage and water scarcity, affected electoral prospects of the party in the various by-polls to the assembly and the legislative council held in the last two years.

The BJP, for the first time, captured power in the Bangalore civic body in the elections held in April. Of the 198 seats in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (Greater Bangalore City Corporation), the BJP won 112 seats, the Congress bagged 64 and JD-S managed 15. The remaining went to Independents.

Yeddyurappa and the party plan to celebrate the completion of the second year in office in mid-June. He is now busy supervising arrangements for the twice-postponed Global Investors Meet in Bangalore June 4-5.

He expects to sign memorandums of understanding with investors in the auto, pharma, cement, power, tourism and several other sectors to bring in capital in excess of Rs.200,000 crore.