The Congress is gearing up to make Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's alleged involvement with the mining mafia in his State the focus of its counter-campaign against the Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming session of Parliament, which commences on August 1 — unless he is dropped by then.
Indeed, the report of Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hedge — a member of Team Anna — indicting Mr. Yeddyurappa could not have come at a better moment for the Congress. With the issue of corruption still topping the Opposition's agenda, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) now has something substantial to counter that campaign in Parliament, and shift attention from itself. Giving the Congress' planned campaign more weight, say party sources, is the fact that it comes from Mr. Hegde, who is seen as a core member of the civil society movement that had taken on the UPA.
The Congress had been trying, for several months, to make Mr. Yeddyurappa's alleged involvement with Karnataka's mining mafia an issue: on one occasion, it even brought senior State Congress leaders to the national capital to address a press conference, but with little success. But now that the Hegde report is likely to be submitted on Monday, and the Lokayukta has even publicly accused senior State BJP leaders, including the former Minister Dhananjay Kumar, of requesting him to drop Mr. Yeddyurappa's name from his findings, the Congress finally feels it has some ammunition.
In the week gone by, the Congress devoted two of its official briefings to the Yeddyurappa issue — on July 20, when party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed addressed the press, and again on July 22, when another spokesman, Abhishek Singhvi, said: “The BJP, its Chief Minister and its Ministers of that State are…guilty of unadulterated hypocrisy, of dedicated double speak and devastating double standards. They shout from the rooftops about corruption but …they fiddle while Karnataka burns.”
Now, for the first time since the Congress began to push its accusations against Mr. Yeddyurappa into the public domain, it is getting some traction, with even TV channels highlighting the issue.
Congress sources also pointed out that the BJP leadership is now in a quandary: with Mr. Yeddyurappa adamant about staying on, the BJP, they say, is trying to see whether it can replace the Chief Minister without endangering the government. Of course, for the Congress, Mr. Yeddyurappa's staying on as Chief Minister suits it better, as that would give it an issue with which to target the BJP, the sources added.
Thus far, the BJP has dodged questions on the party line on Mr. Yeddyurappa, saying it will respond only after the report is submitted and is in the public domain.