Karnataka has now a Chief Minister in Sadananda Gowda, but the drama that engulfed the “indictment” of the previous Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa in the mining scam by the previous Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, and the consequent political reactions shows how selective the Indian media, jurists and politicians are. Worse, it proves once again how a section of the national leadership in the India’s principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hell bent upon destroying the party.
First, let us talk about the report of Justice Hegde’s report. It is of more than 25,000 pages. But how many of us have bothered to read it? Has anybody, including the decision-makers in the BJP, discussed it? Is the report exclusively on Yeddyurappa? Has the report dealt with the process of illegal mining in totality? Has anybody suggested how the nefarious practice can be stopped? What about the other politicians and officials mentioned by Justice Hegde? What has been the role of the central government, which is the final authority in giving clearances for the mining activities? How to view the role of the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh government through which “maximum illegal ores” from Karnataka were transported and exported? And how to deal with the mining companies that bribed the officials and political masters? Nobody has bothered to find answers to these questions.
On the other hand, over the last one week or so, the whole debate on the Hedge-report has revolved around the thesis that everything will be alright once Yeddyurappa is banished from India’s political class for ever. As is always the case, portions of the report were leaked to the “national” media. And quite conveniently, these leaked portions were about how the Lokayukta has “indicted” BJP’s first CM in a South Indian state. The actual report was released about a week later, but during the entire week, the English TV media went gaga over how BJP can claim moral high ground over corruption in its criticism against the UPA government at the centre when it does not act on its own Chief Minister on corruption charges and on how the party can go along defending “the indefensible” Yeddyurappa.
The Congress (and the English TV media) predictably called for Yeddyurappa’s resignation even before the report was formally submitted, despite the fact that its own Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in Delhi just had trashed the Delhi Lokayukta report against the Delhi government and ministers. In fact, nobody asked the Congress spokesmen how come they were against the Prime Minister coming under the purview of any Lokpal on the specious ground that there would be administrative chaos if the head of the government at the centre was disturbed but at the same time all in favour of a chief minister, the head of the government of a state, coming under the purview of a Lokayukta.
Besides, what was really difficult to fathom was the way the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, went on almost all TV channels—confirming that he has named the Chief Minister in his report. This he did before presenting the report. How could he authenticate and substantiate a leaked report while the original report was, according to him, still being typed? If my memory serves me right, I have never seen a former justice of the Supreme Court loving the media coverage and bytes as much as Justice Hedge and that too when he was holding a sensitive post of Lokayukta. It is surprising that none has bothered to analyse whether Justice Hegde himself acted with probity in writing the report.
It may be noted that Justice Hegde was asked by none other than Yeddyurappa himself to investigate the illegal mining activities in Karnataka in between 2000 and 2010. But, Justice Hegde has emphasised the period between 2006 and 2010, calculating a loss of Rs. 16000 crore to the national exchequer. But what about the period in between 2000-2006? The present External Affairs Minister of India, SM Krishna as chief minister (October 1999 to May 2004) had granted 36 mining licenses. Those licenses were so improper that the Karnataka High Court had quashed all of them; yes “all” of them. Congress Chief Minister Dharam Singh (May 2004 to January 2006) recommended 43 licenses and 33 were granted by the central government (UPA). Later, HD Kumaraswamy (February 2006 and October 2007) recommended 47 and 22 were granted (by UPA). During President’s rule in the state (which means the state was controlled by the UPA government at the center from November 2007 to May 2008) 14 licenses were granted. Yeddyurappa (in between 2008 and 2010) had recommended 22, out of which just two, to repeat, just two, licenses were granted.
But then Justice Hedge has indicted Yeddyurappa not for the licenses he granted but for a trust, being run by his sons, getting donations from a company, which had earlier bought a land owned by them at more than market prices. This company is a mining company but it did not get any permission from Yeddyurappa for mining activity! It seems that Justice Hegde had gone by a perception that since the chief minister’s sons got the donation from a mining company, the Chief Minister is guilty. This is a perverse logic. Because, there will be chaos if every father gets punishments for the misdeeds of his grown up children. But such was the conviction of Justice Hedge that the Chief minister was bribed, he did not bother to ask for any clarification from him, a right that every accused has got under Indian constitution. Justice Hegde did not grant even any opportunity to Yeddyurappa to defend himself. I do not know whether all these things will stand any legal scrutiny in the ultimate analysis.
There is a huge difference between indictment (which is like a lodging an FIR with a Police Station) and conviction. Justice Hedge has only indicted Yeddyurappa. In fact, the other day, in a television debate, participated by Justice Hegde and Lord Meghnad Desai, the former was speechless when the latter told that had it been any European country, Yeddyurappa could have sued Justice Hegde for denying him his fundamental rights to defend himself and being forced to quit office before being convicted by a court of law. But then, such is the state of affairs in India these days that everybody, including a legal luminary like Justice Hegde, goes by perception or emotion rather than reason and logic.
And when one talks of perception, it is always open to subjectivity and manipulation. After all, we all know the Fascist dictum that a lie, repeated hundred times, becomes the truth. In fact, these days, there are professional agencies who earn crores by manufacturing “perceptions” for leading political parties and politicians. Therefore, howsoever hard I find it to believe to be true, there are strong perceptions in certain political quarters and media that Justice Hegde wanted to be perceived such a tough ombudsman of Karnataka that when the Parliament eventually created the office of Lokpal, he would automatically be the first choice in the country to occupy the post. Another section also perceives that Justice Hegde did all that he could to indict Yeddyurappa just to satisfy veteran BJP leader LK Advani whom he considers “a father figure”. There are strong perceptions that Yeddyurappa’s real enemies are always within his own party and all these “enemies” have been extremely close to Advani.
I may not agree with this perception, but then perceptions are perceptions. After all, the BJP removed Yeddyurappa just because there was a perception that the removal was absolutely necessary to take on the “corrupt” UPA government at the centre. But then one should not lose sight of the fact that “perceptions” become handy for political rivals to settle scores. This has happened in Karnataka, and if again one goes by perceptions, the anti-Yeddyurappa sections in BJP’s national leadership will repeat in future the same formula in Gujarat because Narendra Modi is their next target. This section is not comfortable with any grass-root and popular BJP leader to emerge anywhere and since leaders like Yeddyurappa and Modi cannot be defeated electorally, you go behind “perceptions” created by media and ongoing legal cases against them to force them out of office so that you remain in control of the party for ever.
In other words, Yeddyurappa has gone; Modi, be ware. This is the danger with politics based on “perceptions”.
By Prakash Nanda