The internal bickering in Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come out in the open with the state's Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Minister, K.S. Eshwarappa, writing to the Raj Bhavan complaining against Chief Minister Yediyurappa's alleged autocratic style of functioning.
A Kuruba leader, Eshwarappa was groomed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from his very early days. On Wednesday, he approached the Raj Bhavan with a formal complaint against Yediyurappa's "direct interference" in the affairs of his department, allegedly to help and groom his relatives.
Another leader, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal has been making similar accusations for the last four months that Yediyurappa has been in the tight grip of his kith and kin, besides allocating more funds to Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, Lakshmi Hebbalkar and B.Z. Zameer Ahamed Khan.
By writing a strongly worded letter, Eshwarappa has taken the battle against Yediyurappa to another level as the latter had recently met as many as 60 MLAs under the leadership of his political secretary M.P. Renukacharya, during which several MLAs had targeted Eshwarappa and a few more ministers for not releasing funds to their constituencies.
Eshwarappa in his letter to Governor Vajubhai Vala said, "I am at pains to bring to your kind notice some of the recent actions of our respected Chief Minister relating to my department, which amounts to direct interference in the affairs of the ministers in-charge of the departments, in clear violation of Karnataka (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1977 and also against the established practices and procedures relating to the affairs of the state administration."
Listing out a series of unilateral decisions, Eshwarappa stated in his letter that the Chief Minister's Office was exerting pressure on the RDPR principal secretary to issue a government order for the release of funds, which was "stayed by him on the advice of state party president (Nalinkumar Kateel) and other senior leaders of the BJP".
Coming to the point of the CM allegedly favouring his relatives, Eshwarappa mentioned that the President of Bengaluru Urban Zilla Panchayat is a close relative of the CM and a list of proposed civil works in the ZP was due for clearance as per the procedure.
"The CM sanctioned those plans in violation of the Panchayati Raj Act and the Karnataka (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1977," he said.
Rs 460 crore sanctioned bypassing Eshwarappa
Eshwarappa further added that on March 4, he had alleged that works worth Rs 460 crore were sanctioned by bypassing him.
"Although the two allocations and another worth Rs 65 crore were stayed by me, it was superseded by the CM. I have registered my strong objection through a letter highlighting the indiscriminate sanction of funds to various MLAs/persons in violation of rules, but it was of no avail," the minister stated.
"It is highly unfortunate that the Chief Minister knowingly issues such orders ignoring the minister in-charge of the department. If this trend continues in future - of bypassing the minister and violating the rules - I do not know where I stand as a minister in-charge of the department," he added.
Eshwarappa had sent a similar letter to BJP national general secretary Arun Singh, who is in-charge of the party's affairs in Karnataka, in February 2021.
In that letter, Eshwarappa had alleged that "substantial" allocation was made to the constituencies headed by non-BJP MLAs. Moreover, the finance department, controlled by Yediyurappa, was yet to release Rs 2,398 crore allocated to the RDPR department.
The finance department, according to Eshwarappa, was sanctioning huge funds in the form of special grants.
"The above actions have put me in an embarrassing situation in the eyes of our party MLAs and party workers, who are very critical about the allocation of special grants to the constituencies belonging to opposition party MLAs," he had said.
The MLAs are complaining that "adequate grants are not being allocated for the development of their constituencies, in spite of having our own government in the state," he had said.
Eshwarappa also said that he had brought this to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior party leaders.
The animosity between Eshwarappa and Yediyurappa had resurfaced first in 2016 when Eshwarappa was apparently ignored for the state vice-president's position when Yediyurappa was the state president of the BJP.
Eshwarappa had set up the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, a parallel outfit, to unite Dalits under the party fold which was considered to be largely a Congress vote bank. Eshwarappa was unhappy as Yediyurappa was appointing those who had quit the BJP along with him in 2013 while ignoring BJP loyalists like him.
However, that fight was quelled with the intervention of Amit Shah, then the party's national president, and Eshwarappa was given the position of president of the BJP's OBC Morcha. Eshwarappa had been the BJP state unit chief twice besides being the Deputy Chief Minister once.
(With inputs from IANS)