“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” What Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, told the Rump Parliament in 1653 applies with comparable moral force and political urgency to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. His refusal to leave office in the face of mounting evidence of corruption and misconduct marks a new low for standards of probity in public life. With the Lokayukta scheduled to submit a report detailing his involvement in illegal mining on Wednesday, the Chief Minister is running out of excuses. The question is no longer whether he is a liability or asset to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which while taking on the ruling United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre on issues of corruption and wrongdoing has been thoroughly exposed on the very same issues in the southern State. What is at stake is the right of the people of Karnataka to have a government that inspires confidence, a government that is not hand-in-glove with the corrupt and the greedy, but will act without fear against, for example, those engaged in illegal operations in the mining industry. This is not the first time Mr. Yeddyurappa is in the dock: following the wrongful de-notification of lands and allotment to his family members, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj gave sanction for his prosecution in January 2011. The Karnataka High Court last week upheld the Special Lokayukta Court's order to take cognisance of charges against the Chief Minister in the land scams and allowed the Lokayukta police to inquire into them.
With his extraordinary skills in political manipulation, the Chief Minister has so far managed to ride out the storm each time he found himself in trouble, whether in dealing with dissidents in his own party or in thwarting the designs of a hostile Governor. However, this time he may have run out of luck. His continuance in the job will not be tenable once the report on illegal mining is submitted to the government by the Lokayukta, the retired Supreme Court judge, N. Santosh Hegde. Self-evidently, Mr. Yeddyurappa cannot sit in judgment over a case in which he is among those facing charges. According to Mr. Hegde, the report is a “voluminous study that has thousands of supporting documents” and could be used as “material evidence” in the case on this subject before the Supreme Court. But in the first instance, the Karnataka government must take action on this issue, and it cannot do so with Mr. Yeddyurappa at the helm. Depart, the people of Karnataka must say, and let us have done with you.