As it waits with dread for the impending report of the lokayukta indicting their chief minister and four ministers — among at least 500 others — for corruption related to illegal mining, the BJP is anxiously turning its gaze towards Karnataka’s Raj Bhavan.
Its occupant, HR Bhardwaj, veteran of many public conflicts with CM BS Yeddyurappa, has already said he will act on the report when it is released, most likely on Monday. “Justice Hegde is a competent man,” said Bhardwaj. “Whatever he recommends, I will go by it.”
While lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde will do no more than release the 8,000-page report, since his organisation has no powers to file civil or criminal cases, the lokayukta act provides unspecified discretionary powers to the governor.
The CM’s confidants believe things could get messy even if BJP leaders in Delhi stand by him — it isn’t clear they will — and he ignores the coming storm.
The Lokayukta Act, 1984, clearly defines “public servants” covered under the act. That includes the “chief minister and all other ministers and members of the state legislature”.
The lokayukta can investigate but not prosecute them. That prerogative, the act reads, is left to the “competent authority”, which in the case of the chief minister or a member of the state legislature is “the governor acting in his discretion”.
The governor has used his discretion in cases before to recommend action against the CM.
In May, the Centre rejected the governor's recommendation of President's rule, after questions over a government majority in the legislature. Yeddyurappa took 121 MLAs to Rashtrapati Bhavan to prove majority.
In January, Bhardwaj sanctioned the CM’s prosecution in alleged land scandals, also involving his family members. A stay on that was lifted on Thursday by the Karnataka HC.
As for possible action against those likely to be named in the report — including four state ministers, former CM HD Kumaraswamy (JD-S) and Congress MP Anil Lad —observers note that in 2009, no action was taken against 10 officers, IAS and IPS, as Hegde had recommended in his first report. And nothing happened to Hegde’s recommendation that Rs 23 crore be recovered from former CM Dharam Singh (Congress) for issuing permits to transport illegally mined iron ore. The lokayukta dismissed as "totally wrong" reports that he has named external affairs minister SM Krishna in his report.