Furore over meeting of top leaders

BANGALORE, MARCH 17. Opposition members in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday alleged that the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, was interfering in administrative work and exercising extra-constitutional authority.

They alleged that the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, was acting at the behest of Mr. Deve Gowda. They questioned the propriety of the reported discussions the Chief Minister had with Mr. Deve Gowda at a guesthouse here on Wednesday on matters concerning the State.

Mr. Dharam Singh's assertion, "I am not a puppet" of Mr. Deve Gowda or anyone else, did not convince the Opposition members, who staged a walkout.

As soon as the new Deputy Speaker, N.Y. Gopalakrishna, occupied the chair, the Leader of the Opposition, B.S. Yediyurappa, raised the issue and demanded that Mr. Dharam Singh resign as he had been acting under pressure from Mr. Deve Gowda.

The Chief Minister, the Minister for Industries and Infrastructure, P.G.R. Sindhia, and senior government officials held a meeting with Mr. Deve Gowda and discussed some important and confidential issues pertaining to the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) Project at the guest house, Mr. Yediyurappa claimed.

It has been reported that Mr. Deve Gowda had sought an explanation from Mr. Dharam Singh on the move by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) to sell for profit a part of land acquired from farmers at concession rate. The farmers, who are opposed to the sale of land by NICE, the firm implementing the project, had sought Mr. Deve Gowda's intervention in the issue.

Earlier, Mr. Dharam Singh said he was not controlled by anybody. "As I am heading the coalition Government, I met Mr. Deve Gowda at the guest house. We have not gone underground and held discussions."

The Chief Minister said he had not taken any official files to show to Mr. Deve Gowda and there is no truth in the allegations made by Mr. Yediyurappa. Mr. Deve Gowda is an MP and president of the Janata Dal(S), which is a partner in the Government, he added.

Jagadish Shettar, K. Eshwarappa, Araga Jnanendra, Visveshwara Hegde Kageri (all from the BJP), said: "Mr. Dharam Singh is a remote control Chief Minister" and sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the issue. The two ruling parties were preparing themselves for mid-term polls by looting poor farmers, they alleged.

`Against norms'

The Janata Dal (U) leader, J.C. Madhuswamy, said the Chief Minister's meeting with Mr. Deve Gowda is against constitutional norms.

He wanted to know as to why the Government had called the legislature session if the decisions are taken outside Vidhana Soudha.

He asked Mr. Sindhia to advise Mr. Deve Gowda against interfering in the administration. He too staged a walkout along with Vatal Nagaraj (Kannada Chaluvali).

Mr. Sindhia, who replied to the criticism made by the Opposition members, said there is no question of resignation by Mr. Dharam Singh or any other Minister. Senior officials had gone to the guesthouse to brief the Chief Minister about questions that would come up for discussion in the Legislative Council (today). "I cannot help if you (Opposition) do not trust me," he said.

Mr. Sindhia said the meeting discussed the issue with regard to setting up of an industrial park in Kanakapura and other places in the State. A case with regard to NICE will come up for hearing in the High Court of Karnataka on April 7 and the Chief Secretary, K.K. Misra, will appear in court that day, he added.

Jayaprakash Hegde (independent) said: "All is not well with the Government", while G.V. Sriram Reddy (CPI-M) urged the Government to set up a coordination committee to implement the common minimum programme.

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