Two major government functionaries will leave office shortly. One is Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa. The second is Justice Santosh Hegde of the Lokayukta.
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BSY is being forced out by the BJP top brass to contain political fallout of Karnataka’s massive mining scam in the ongoing BJP-Cong tug of war on who is more corrupt. A defiant BSY is not going to be happy. (Hopefully the Reddy brothers will be asked to quit, too.)
But when Santosh Hegde demits office next week, he’ll leave with a smile on his face even if you are not there to see it. Hegde and his team have worked overtime to finish their long awaited final investigative report on the mining scam. It’s a report that indicted the chief minister, the three Reddy brothers and whole host of officials.
Justice Hegde’s satisfaction will not come from ‘nailing’ the chief minister and his powerful colleagues. After all prosecution can begin only after the Karnataka governor gives sanction. Hegde like his predecessor, has long complained that Lokayukta reports have most often been ignored when it comes to prosecution and conviction of those found culpable. His final report on illegal iron ore mining is the legal starting point.
However the reason Hegde is going to have some satisfaction is the sense of closure after tumultuous year of developments. Bangaloreans in particular must not forget that this indicting report almost did not happen!
Just a year ago, Justice Hegde almost resigned. He was frustrated and driven to the wall over complete inaction by the Karnataka government on illegal mining which he was investigating, and the arrest of an upright official who was helping him with the case.
What Justice Hegde had not expected then was the outpouring of support he would get from citizens all over Karnataka and Bangalore in particular. Visitors had poured into his office last June. In a landmark interview to Citizen Matters in late June last year, Hegde revealed to Vaishnavi Vittal, a side of him people had seen less of till then: "passion, sensitivity and fire", to quote from the interview.
Even now, if there is one interview you must to read to understand Santosh Hegde, this is it.
The outpouring led to a campaign in his support and ultimately also led to Bangalore’s Saaku campaign. The campaign brought Bangaloreans willing to stand up against corruption together.
Hegde had by then withdrawn his resignation and decided to press on to conclude his landmark investigation before he retired this August. And remaining outspoken as ever, he saw himself becoming the centre of the groundswell of support in Bangalore for Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade in April this year. The rest of the Lokpal story is known to everyone.
While leaving office next week, Hegde must have a sense of satisfaction because of all this. It was his refusal to bow down to abuse of power that gave him the moral power he needed to push on with his task. When he steps down from office, he’ll be happy he did not let himself or his supporters down. He completed the work he began and named the accused, exposing a scam that makes Bellary looks worse than mafia-run Sicily.
Perhaps already embattled chief minister Yeddyurappa did not expect that the finish line of culpability would come all the way to his doors and those of his sons. Or perhaps he knew and just hoped that ‘politics as usual’ would kill the report.
Whether prosecution happens on not is not in Hegde’s hands. But Bangaloreans and citizens all over the state and India who supported Hegde can take pride in one fact: their timely support for one man led in part to major indictments on Karnataka’s illegal mining scam. ⊕