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Friday, June 25, 2021

B S Yediyurappa halts contested land deal amid fresh removal buzz

The deal, cleared in April, had been questioned by a section within the BJP seen as opposed to Yediyurappa.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 28, 2021 7:42:50 am
Covid-19Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa (File photo)

On a day that Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa indicated that efforts to remove him had been rebuffed by the BJP central leadership, the state cabinet decided not to proceed with a controversial decision to sell 3,667 acres of land in the Ballari region to steel major JSW Steel as part of a 2006 agreement.

The deal, cleared in April, had been questioned by a section within the BJP seen as opposed to Yediyurappa.

Following a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Basavaraj Bommai said the April 26 decision to sell the land to JSW Steel had been put on hold. “There are a number of cases in the Supreme Court and a PIL has been filed in the high court,” Bommai said, adding they would take a call on the matter based on the legal outcome.

The move came amid rumours of a fresh bid to unseat Yediyurappa. The anti-Yediyurappa camp has been claiming to have signatures of MLAs opposed to him and to have approached the central leadership for a meeting of BJP legislative members around June 7.

Tourism Minister C P Yogeshwara and an MLA complained to Delhi recently about the CM and the alleged interference of his son B Y Vijayendra in the administration. Yogeshwara admitted he had complained against the government, saying, “This government does not seem like a pure BJP government.”

However, he said, “My intention is not to change the CM and I do not have that much power. I have to consider issues like whether I can get re-elected as an MLA in 2023 and what are the hindrances to it.”

A Yediyurappa loyalist, M P Renukacharya dismissed the signature campaign against the CM. “No one has signed against Yediyurappa and there are 62 people (out of 118 BJP MLAs) who have signed in support. I will send this to national leaders at the right time. All MLAs are focused on Covid control,” he said.

Asked about the matter, Yediyurappa too said he was only focused on Covid as of now.

As per the April 26 decision, 3,667 acres were to be sold to JSW, a major supplier of oxygen to Karnataka during the current Covid-19 crisis, at prices that prevailed in Ballari in 2005, in the range of Rs 1.20 lakh per acre, instead of an estimated market value of Rs 1 crore per acre.

The decision was taken in line with lease-cum-sale agreements signed with JSW Ltd by the state in 2006 and 2007, under the JD(S)-BJP government. Incidentally, when the sale proposal had been tabled by the Congress-JD(S) government in 2019, it had to be withdrawn under BJP protests, including by Yediyurappa.

Several MLAs had written to Yediyurappa questioning the April JSW order, including Basavanagouda Patil Yatnal and Arvind Bellad. BJP’s minister in-charge of Ballari district Anand Singh had also opposed the move, saying the land could be leased to the company instead.

Two weeks ago, the BJP leadership in the state had denied the possibility of a change of guard amidst the Covid crisis, with Karnataka among the worst-hit states in the country.

Through the second wave, Yediyurappa has been more active on the ground — setting out every day to inspect facilities and initiatives and holding meetings.

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