Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj on Tuesday asked for removal of the controversial Reddy brothers from the state ministry on allegations of "illegal mining", a demand that riled the BJP which hit back at him saying he was acting as a "rank agent" of the Congress.
The issue, which has already rocked the Karnataka legislature for the last two days, escalated into a full scale war between the BJP and the Congress. The Reddy brothers also threatened to take legal action against the Governor for his remarks against them.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa ruled out a CBI inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining by the Bellary brothers--Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy and Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy and offered to get it investigated by the state Lok Ayukta.
After a meeting with President Pratibha Patil, Bhardwaj told reporters in Delhi that he has asked the chief minister to take action against the two ministers. Without taking their names he questioned their continuance in the ministry.
"He (Chief Minister) is a person who realises the problem. I told him you have appointed them as ministers. Take action against them. He says I need time. He doesn't say it is not happening," the Governor said.
He said he has taken serious note of the issue and has told the chief minister of his concern and to the Central government.
"It is whether ministers can indulge in this kind of corrupt practices. Whether they can continue as ministers and will continue to do illegal mining and make profits. It is a big issue of integrity and probity of holders of high office," he said in remarks that angered the BJP.
Suggesting a CBI inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining, he said he would meet Home Minister P Chidambaram tomorrow and apprise him of the latest situation.
The BJP was quick to unleash an attack on Bhardwaj, a former Law Minister at the Centre, and called him a "rank agent" of the Congress.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said Bhardwaj should decide whether to uphold the sanctity of the constitutional office or act as an agent of the Congress.
"We deeply regret that the Raj Bhawan in Karnataka is becoming an instrument to bring Congress into power in the state through the backdoor," he said.
The BJP said Bhardwaj had no right to speak about probity in public life. "If he is interested in rooting out corruption, he should start with his campaign in the Central government first," its spokesperson said.