A day after demanding the removal of three Karnataka ministers allegedly involved in illegal mining, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Wednesday met the prime minister and home minister to discuss the political impasse in the southern state.
The governor’s meetings in Delhi came as MLAs from Opposition parties continued their sit-in protest inside the assembly for the third day, demanding that the BJP government in the state order a CBI probe into illegal mining.
In Bangalore, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said he preferred a probe by the Lokayukta, but stopped short of asking the Ombudsman of Karnataka to investigate illegal mining in the state.
Yeddyurappa said a probe by the Lokayukta would be faster, but Opposition parties rejected the suggestion.
H.D. Revanna of the Janata Dal (Secular), who led 18 party legislators to stage a sit-in protest wearing yellow mining helmets inside the assembly, said the Lokayukta has no powers to act against ministers.
Opposition parties have accused Karnataka Tourism and Infrastructure Development Minister G. Janardhana Reddy and his brother, Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, of illegally exporting iron ore and carrying out hawala transactions.
The Reddy brothers, who operate several mines in Karnataka and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, have denied charges of their involvement in illegal mining that Opposition parties say has caused a "loss of Rs 20,000 crore to the exchequer in the last seven years".
State Health Minister B. Sreeramulu, who is considered close to the Reddy brothers, has also been named in allegations by the Opposition.
The snowballing controversy was also discussed by the central leadership of the BJP in New Delhi.
"Karnataka has a popular government in place. It is unfortunate that the Congress is trying to destabilise the government," said Ananth Kumar, the party’s general secretary, in an apparent reference to Governor Bhardwaj's statements and meetings in New Delhi over the past couple of days.