Karnataka BJP’s seasoned oarsman relents, but too early for political obituary

News Network
July 26, 2021

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Bengaluru, July 26: There seems to be no "closure" for B S Yediyurappa, the BJP's "comeback man" in Karnataka, as he could never complete a full term in office, despite becoming the Chief Minister four times, surmounting odds.

It's also too early to write a political obituary of the 78-year old Lingayat strongman and the 24X7 politician, the face of the party in the State for decades.

From the humdrum existence as a government clerk and a hardware store owner to becoming the chief minister four times, Yediyurappa has navigated the choppy waters of politics with the consummate ease of a seasoned oarsman.

In a repeat of sorts, it is a "cut short" tenure for the rarely smiling and ever grim-looking Yediyurappa as he is stepping down less than two years ahead of the end of the current tenure, ascending to power, exactly two years ago after a murky legal battle and weeks of political drama.

For the architect of the BJP's first ever government to the south of Vindhyas, age is being seen as a primary factor for his exit from the top job, with an unwritten rule in the BJP of keeping out those above 75 years from elective offices; also the high command wants to make way for the fresh leadership, ahead of the Assembly polls, likely by mid-2023.

Among the other reasons that might have contributed to his exit include rumblings within the party with complaints about his "authoritative" style of functioning, his younger son and state BJP Vice President B Y Vijayendra's alleged interference in the administration, and allegations of corruption.

Yediyurappa's tenure as Chief Minister includes seven days during his first term in November 2007; three years and two months from May 2008; for three days in May 2018, following the Assembly polls, which was his third term; and finally for exactly two years since July 26, 2019, his fourth tenure.

A hardboiled RSS swayamsevak, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa was born on February 27, 1943 at Bookanakere in K R Pet Taluk of Mandya district to Siddalingappa and Puttathayamma.

Fondly called "Raja Huli" (King Tiger) by his followers, he joined the RSS when he was barely 15, and cut his political teeth in the Jana Sangh, the BJP's forerunner, in his hometown Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

He became the Jana Sangh's Shikaripura taluk chief in the early 1970s.

Yediyurappa, who began his electoral politics as Purasabha president in Shikaripura, was first elected to the Legislative Assembly from Shikaripura in 1983 and went on to win eight times from there.

Widely credited for BJP's growth in Karnataka, along with being party's state unit president, he has also served as opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly, member of Legislative Council, as also member of parliament.

A Bachelor of Arts, he was jailed during the Emergency, worked as a clerk in the social welfare department before taking up a similar job at a rice mill in Shikaripura before he set up his hardware shop in Shivamogga.

He married Maitradevi, daughter of the rice mill owner, where he worked, on March 5, 1967 and has two sons and three daughters. 

His elder son B Y Raghavendra is a MP from Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency.

Always seen in his trademark white safari suit, according to those close to him, he had keen interest in watching Kannada movies.

Yediyurappa is also seen as BJP's only leader with a "mass leader" stature in South India, and wields considerable influence over the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, which is estimated to form about 16 per cent of the states population, and is considered to be the BJPs core support base in the state.

He could have landed in the hot seat in 2004 when the BJP emerged as the single largest party, but the Congress and JD(S) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda formed an alliance, and a government was formed under Dharam Singh.

Known for his political acumen, Yediyurappa joined hands with H D Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowda's son, in 2006 and brought down the Dharam Singh government.

Under a rotational chief ministership arrangement, Kumaraswamy became the CM and Yediyurappa his deputy.

Yediyurappa became CM for the first time in November 2007 but his term lasted just seven days as Kumaraswamy reneged on a power sharing pact and walked out of the alliance.

He became the chief minister once again after the BJP came to power in May 2008 but had to step down in July 2011 following his indictment by the then Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde in an illegal mining case.

In the 2008 polls, Yediyurappa had led the party to victory, and the first BJP government in the south was formed under him, with the help of "Operation Kamala" (Operation Lotus)- an alleged attempt of the BJP to engineer defection of opposition legislators to ensure the stability of the government.

On October 15, 2011, he surrendered before the Lokayukta court after it issued a warrant against him in connection with alleged land scams, and was in jail for a week.

Sulking after having been made to quit, Yediyurappa broke his decades-long association with the BJP and formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha. However, ploughing a lonely furrow, he failed to make the KJP a force to reckon with in state politics but wrecked the BJP's chances of retaining power in the 2013 polls, winning six seats and polling about 10 per cent votes.

As Yediyurappa faced an uncertain future and the BJP looked for a leader with a formidable reputation to lend its campaign the required heft ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the two cosied up to each other, leading to the KJP's merger with the BJP on January 9, 2014.

In the Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 19 of the state's 28 seats, a remarkable turnaround for the party which had secured only 19.9 per cent votes in the Assembly polls just a year ago leading to the fall of its first government.

Notwithstanding the corruption taint, Yediyurappa's status and clout grew in the BJP.

On October 26, 2016, he got a huge relief when a special CBI court acquitted him, his two sons and son-in-law in a Rs 40 crore illegal mining case, which had cost him the chief ministership in 2011.

In January 2016, the Karnataka High Court quashed all 15 FIRs against Yediyurappa lodged by Lokayukta police under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In April that year, he was appointed the state BJP chief for the fourth time.

The Lingayat leader, however, continued to be dogged by controversies, with some cases against him still pending before courts.

The BJP declared him its chief ministerial candidate in the 2018 assembly polls, ignoring the taunts by the Congress.

As the polls threw up a hung verdict, with no party getting a clear majority in the 225-member House (including Speaker), the Governor invited Yediyurappa, the leader of the single largest party, to form the government and gave him 15 days to prove the majority.

However,the Supreme Court asked him to prove the majority in the House within 24 hours following a plea by the Congress-JD(S) challenging the Governor's decision to invite the BJP to form the government.

The three-day-old BJP government collapsed on May 19, 2018, minutes before the scheduled trust vote, with him resigning in a tame anti-climax and hours later Kumaraswamy, the chief ministerial candidate of the newly formed JD(S)- Congress alliance, was invited to form the government.

In the next over one year period, the BJP under Yediyurappa managed to keep the coalition government on tenterhooks as the ruling combine constantly feared poaching of MLAs.

In its best ever performance the BJP also won 25 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 parliamentary polls.

The resignation of 17 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs came as a blow to the alliance and it collapsed, losing the trust vote on July 23, 2019, paving the way for his return.

Determined to regain the reins of power, amid uncertainties about his political future with growing age, Yediyurappa is said to have played a key role in engineering the defection of the 17 Congress-JD(S) rebels.

Sixteen of them had subsequently joined the BJP.

He ensured that most of them won the bypolls in December that year on a BJP ticket, and 12 are currently Ministers in his Cabinet, as promised.

Though in the last two years, BJP won most of the bye-elections under Yediyurappa's leadership, repeated floods, alleged shortcomings in Covid management and growing disgruntlement within the party and the government, threw challenges to administration.

With growing age and strong central leadership, his declining sway over the party and administration, marred his final tenure, bringing him the criticism of being a "weak CM" from the Opposition parties.

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News Network
June 18,2022

Kabul, June 18: Several blasts and gunfire hit a Sikh Gurdwara in Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Saturday, according to media reports.

The blasts occurred in the Karta Parwan area of Kabul, Tolo news tweeted along with the video after the blasts. Gunfire was also reported from the area.

Karte Parwan Gurdwara is located in the area.

The casualties in the blast were unknown.

"We are deeply concerned at the reports emanating from Kabul about an attack on a sacred Gurudwara in that city. We are closely monitoring the situation and waiting for further details on the unfolding developments," the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi tweeted.

Abdul Nafi Takor, a Taliban-appointed spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, confirmed the attack but did not provide further details or say whether there were casualties, The Associated Press reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Islamic State group known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province has in the past claimed responsibility for attacks on mosques and minorities across the country.

"We heard a huge blast in Kart-e-Parwan neighbourhood at around 6 a.m. local time. The blast was followed by another explosion which occurred about half an hour after the first blast. The whole place has now been sealed off," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying.

The security forces have cordoned off the area for precautionary measures, he said.

The blast sent a column of thick smoke into the sky and triggered panic, the witness said.

"There is fear of possible casualties. Several warning shots were also fired by the security forces," he added.

Community leaders estimate just 140 Sikhs remain in the Taliban-ruled country, mostly in the eastern city of Jalalabad and the capital Kabul.

In March 2020, at least 25 worshippers were killed and eight others injured when a heavily armed suicide bomber stormed a prominent gurudwara in the heart of Kabul, in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority Sikh community in the country.

The Islamic State terror group had claimed responsibility for the attack in the Shor Bazar area.

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News Network
June 23,2022

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Kabul, June 23: Afghan authorities are struggling to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people as poor communications and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials said.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters news agency on Thursday, referring to telephone networks.

Survivors dug by hand through villages reduced to rubble by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck early on Wednesday about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in 20 years, and officials said the toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured.

Access to the affected eastern provinces of Khost and Paktika has been hampered by road blocks due to the earthquake as well as prior landslides from recent heavy rains.

In Paktika’s hard-hit Gayan district, villagers stood atop a pile of mud bricks that once were a home. Others carefully walked through dirt alleyways, gripping onto damaged walls with exposed timber beams to make their way.

Survivors quickly prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial.

“We ask the Islamic emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” a survivor, who gave his name as Hakimullah, told The Associated Press. “We are with nothing and have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

Helicopters were used to reach the injured and deliver urgent medical supplies and food provisions. Authorities confirmed 1,800 households have been destroyed.

Sultan Mahmood, Spera district’s chief, told Al Jazeera that 29 people have been killed in the area, 42 injured and 500 homes have been destroyed, with the remote village of Afghan-Dubai being hit the hardest.

The Taliban government has appealed for international aid. Most aid agencies pulled out of the country and many governments imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of aid after the Taliban took control in August last year.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the foreign affairs ministry’s spokesperson, told a press conference that “entire villages have been razed to the ground”.

“Despite the sanctions that have been imposed by the international community, the government has done whatever it can in its capacity and the Afghan Red Crescent has immediately dispatched emergency aid to the area, along with the Turkish Red Crescent and other agencies,” Balkhi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan arrived in Paktika. He also said on Thursday that two planes of humanitarian aid from Iran and another from Qatar had arrived in the country.

Neil Turner, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Afghanistan, said in a statement that Taliban authorities had granted humanitarian agencies full access to affected areas.

However, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special representative to Afghanistan, the Taliban did not formally request that the UN mobilise international search-and-rescue teams or obtain equipment from neighbouring countries.

Many international aid agencies are wary of dealing directly with the Taliban due to sweeping international sanctions, while others have left Afghanistan altogether after the Taliban takeover last August.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Latifi, reporting from the Paktika province, said World Food Programme (WFP) trucks could be seen heading to affected areas as well as convoys from other international organisations, but that poor weather conditions on Wednesday had prevented much of the aid from reaching people in need.

At the Paktika regional hospital, badly injured patients were being turned away. “The Paktika regional hospital still lacks very important resources,” Latifi said. “For instance, they don’t have a helicopter, so patients have to be sent to Kabul by road,” a journey that takes on average five hours.

The United States on Wednesday expressed sorrow and said it would look for ways to help, including through potential talks with Taliban rulers.

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected,” Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said.

The Khost province, one of the most affected by the earthquake, is home to thousands of internally displaced Afghans, returnees, and refugees from Waziristan who had already been displaced.

The death toll reported as of Thursday was equal to that of a quake in 2002 in northern Afghanistan. Those are the deadliest since 1998, when an earthquake of 6.1 in magnitude and subsequent tremors in the remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

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June 21,2022

Bengaluru, June 21: Karnataka police have intensified investigations into the drugs case involving Siddhanth Kapoor, the son of actor Shakti Kapoor.

Notices have been served to foreign and Indian models who participated in the rave party organised in a luxury Bengaluru hotel with Siddhanth Kapoor in connection with use and consumption of drugs.

According to police, 150 models and celebrities attended the rave party and notices have been issued to 40 foreign and Indian models. They have been asked to appear for the investigation within a week.

Six female models have already appeared for the investigations and got their statements recorded. The transactions and connections of models and celebrities are found to be suspicious and is being probed, sources say.

The probe has revealed that the foreign nationals who participated in the rave party were staying illegally in the country even after expiry of visa period.

The rave party in which drugs were found was attended by many celebrities and models. The police are still investigating the source of drugs. Though CCTV footage is verified, the police are yet to locate the persons who dumped drugs near the dustbin.

On June 12, the Halasuru police of Bengaluru city conducted raids on a luxury hotel following a tip-off about a rave party where drugs are circulated.

The police had detailed 35 persons, including Siddhanth Kapoor -- also the brother of actress Shraddha Kapoor -- and conducted medical tests. The tests have confirmed consumption of drugs by six persons, including Kapoor.

Later, the accused were released on station bail. Siddhanth Kapoor had told police during the inquiry that someone had given him water and cigarettes laced with drugs. He had also told the investigators that he did not know about it.

Bhimashankar Guled DCP (East) had stated that Siddhanth Kapoor has not agreed that he had consumed drugs. "Kapoor is claiming that it was mixed in his drinks offered by someone and that he did not know about drugs. He said that he had come to Bengaluru 40 times and attended parties as DJ. This was the fourth time he had come to the hotel and was arrested," DCP Guled had said.

"We have taken a guest list and suspicious persons will be called for questioning," he had stated.

The police have sent the mobiles of the accused to the Forensic Science Laboratory for data retrieval. The police are investigating the nexus of Siddhanth Kapoor and others with drug peddling.

The police have also sent notice to the luxury hotel owner and organisers of the rave party. The event management company representatives are also called for investigations.

A case has been registered under IPC Sections 20 A, 22 B, 27 B. The police had arrested Akhil Soni, Business Manager of Mind Fire Solutions, Harjoth Singh, an industrialist, Hani, a digital marketing entrepreneur and Akhil, a photographer.

The police had taken 7 grams of MDMA crystals and 10 grams of Ganja into custody after conducting a raid on a rave party organised at the luxury hotel The Park in Bengaluru on June 12. 

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