In a move that will set another sharp political conflict between the Congress and the BJP, governor HR Bhardwaj on Friday finally gave sanction for the prosecution of Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa in land scams and other corruption cases.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley termed the governor's sanction “constitutionally improper and politically motivated”. The Congress welcomed the move.
The BJP — which is continuing with its attack on the Congress at the Centre on corruption — now finds itself suddenly on the backfoot.
The sanction came hours after Bhardwaj had made it clear that he would not be influenced by the resolution passed by the Yeddyurappa cabinet, asking him to reject a petition, filed by two local lawyers, seeking his sanction to start criminal proceedings against the CM.
Bhardwaj formally sanctioned Yeddyurappa’s prosecution under Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, sources in the governor’s office told HT.
“The cabinet resolution simply requires me to put a lid on the serious allegations of corruption against you,” Bhardwaj told Yeddyurappa in a strongly worded letter sent earlier in the day.
“The governor is entitled to and required to take an independent decision on the basis of the material available and therefore, the cabinet decision recommending dropping the consideration of the petition itself is unwarranted,” he said.
The lawyers seeking the sanction, Sirajin Bhasha and KN Balraj, had submitted 1,700 pages of documents to the governor, along with their petition for sanction, detailed over 100 alleged cases of corruption and nepotism by chief minister Yeddyurappa, and some of his cabinet colleagues.
Quoting a Supreme Court judgement in his letter, Bhardwaj has said withholding sanction would lead to a situation where people in power may break the law with impunity, safe in the knowledge that they will not be prosecuted as the requisite sanction will not be granted.
The BJP has been stoutly defending Yeddyurappa. In an interview to Hindustan Times, party president Nitin Gadkari had said the chief minister’s actions could be “immoral but not illegal”.
BJP workers have chalked out a programme of protests against the governor on Saturday, seeking his recall by the Centre. A delegation of central BJP leaders and MPs from Karnataka also plan to meet President Pratibha Patil on Monday, seeking Bhardwaj’s recall.
The BJP has accused Bhardwaj of acting like a ‘Congress agent’ from the time he was sent to Karnataka as governor.