Bengaluru: The winter session of the Karnataka legislature, set to convene from Monday in Belagavi (formerly Belgaum), is expected to be a rocky one with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making it clear that it will demand the ouster of Bengaluru in-charge minister Kelachandra Joseph George.
Former chief minister and BJP leader of the legislative assembly Jagadish Shettar on Friday said that the party will protest from day one until its demands, including the removal of George and the proper implementation of Nanjundappa Commission report (formed to reduce the regional imbalances that divide north and south of the state), are met.
Originally from Kerala but born and brought up in Kodagu district in Karnataka, George has been at the receiving end of BJP’s attacks as he enjoys the support of the Karnataka chief minister as well as the party high command.
More importantly, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on 26 October registered a case against George and two senior police officials in a case related to the suicide of M.K.Ganapathy, a deputy superintendent of police in July last year.
George, the legislator from Sarvajna Nagar in Bengaluru, lost his home portfolio after he was forced to resign later that month. Three months later, he was re-inducted into the state cabinet after the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) cleared his (and two other police officials’ names) in the case.
The hurried investigation by the CID and the rush to induct George came under heavy criticism but it also cemented his proximity to Siddaramaiah, making him more vulnerable to opposition’s attacks.
George’s portfolio of minister for Bengaluru development and state town planning includes overseeing the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), which is responsible for everything related to the construction of basic infrastructure like roads, drains and lakes, apart from looking after other infrastructure and long-term planning for the city.
George is also part of the Kelachandra Group, a company that is into various business sectors like plantations, property development and hospitality, and is also a stakeholder in various projects with large corporate houses.
George has come under attack on many occasions on issues like the crumbling infrastructure in Bengaluru, the decision to construct the Rs1,791 crore steel bridge, large-scale land grabbing and allegations that he had pushed young Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer D.K. Ravi to suicide in March 2015.
Analysts and senior Congress party leaders say that the BJP is hoping that George’s removal would give the party a genuine chance to check Siddaramaiah’s growing popularity and uncontested rise—within his own party and the state which is heading into elections next year.
Though Congress leaders say that George is being targeted because he is from the minority community, analysts have a different argument.
“It’s all about upmanship,” said Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnatak University, Dharwad. He said that if the BJP is successful in getting George removed, they could boast of having exposed the Congress’s weakness and state the same before the people. With internal dissent and factionalism on the rise within the saffron party, Ramaswamy said that the BJP is only trying to shift its focus towards problems in other parties to avoid bigger problems—lack of credible issues to corner Siddaramaiah and its own leadership crisis.
The BJP has been relentless in its attacks especially after its national president Amit Shah pulled up the state unit in August for not being able to capitalise on serious issues including the income tax raids on state energy minister D.K.Shivakumar and help its own narrative that the state, for the last four years, has been under corrupt rule and has seen a deterioration of law and order situation. BJP’s last stint in the state from 2008-2013 was disastrous—it saw three chief ministers in five years and multiple corruption allegations.