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Karnataka mining report could trigger political explosion

Karnataka stares at bitter political battles, instability and possible early assembly elections as the Lokayukta prepares to submit his "explosive" report on illegal mining within 10 days.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2011 11:03 IST

Karnataka stares at bitter political battles, instability and possible early assembly elections as the Lokayukta prepares to submit his "explosive" report on illegal mining within 10 days.

Ombudsman N Santosh Hegde and his team have been busy compiling the report to submit it before his five-year term expires Aug 2.

"My officers have been working overtime but not in office and are not taking the help of stenographers to ensure complete secrecy of the report," Hegde, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, has said.

The report is being prepared by a team of four officers and is expected to throw light on the nexus between the politicians-officials-businessmen in the rampant illegal mining and export of iron ore from Karnataka.

The most controversial mining barons in the last five years have been the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Reddy brothers - tourism minister G Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother, revenue minister G Karunakara Reddy.

The Congress also has mining lords as its members - Anil Lad of the VS Lad group, who is a Rajya Sabha member, and his brother Santosh Lad of the S Lad group, an assembly member.

Hegde has declined to give any indication of what his report will contain and whether he will name the politicians and officials involved in illegal mining. He has only said the report will be "explosive".

The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), which have targeted the BJP's first chief minister in the state, BS Yeddyurappa, with a series of corruption and illegal land deal charges, are hoping the report will end his and his party's rule.

Yeddyurappa is sure to go to jail once the Lokayukta report comes out, Congress and JD-S leaders have asserted for several months now.

Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers are, however, confident the report will not nail them.

Meanwhile, another controversy has raised its head.

Hegde last week revealed that senior BJP leader V Dhananjaya Kumar, now state special representative in New Delhi, had met him and requested him to spare Yeddyurappa.

Dhananjaya Kumar has denied Hegde's claims and said he was ready for any probe into the matter. He has at the same time acknowledged that he had met the Lokayukta several months back but did not discuss any political issues with him.

Hegde has responded that he stands by every word.

As the political heat mounts, the talk is the BJP is getting ready to dissolve the assembly early next year and go for fresh elections a year ahead of schedule. The last polls were held in April-May 2008 and the assembly's term is for five years.

The Congress and the JD-S too had meetings in Bangalore to pep their parties for possible early polls.

The JD-S said it is already finalising the list of its candidates and plans to release 100 names by early October. The assembly has 225 seats -- 224 elected and one nominated.

Party leader and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda told the meeting that his "last wish" was to see the JD-S in power in the state. "If the JD-S does not come to power and the BJP retains it, the JD-S will face tough days," he said.

The Congress, which is conducting a 'Congress nadige, janara balige' (Congress walk to reach out to people), has said it is always ready for polls.

But the immediate worry for the BJP central leaders will be containing the dissidence in the Karnataka unit if the Lokayukta report slams Yeddyurappa.

That much indictment of the BJP government is expected. "Illegal mining and exports have in fact increased even after my interim report," Hegde has said several times.

Apparently anticipating that he has tough battles ahead, Yeddyurappa left July 19 with his family for a five-day holiday in Mauritius.