BS Yediyurappa may change forest minister
Sources in the government said that in response to criticism from various quarters including the opposition Congress and civil society, Singh himself has offered to give up the portfolio. Sources said that the CM who seemed unperturbed over the issue during the last two days, has now changed his mind.by Akshatha Machina
BENGALURU: Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is expected to make another round of portfolio change after his decision to allocate forest, environment and ecology portfolio to Vijayanagara MLA B S Anand Singh has come under sharp criticism and attack. Singh has been named in police cases related to forest and mining.
Reliable sources in the government told ET that in response to criticism from various quarters including the opposition Congress and civil society, Singh himself has offered to give up the portfolio. Sources said that the CM who seemed unperturbed over the issue during the last two days, has now changed his mind.
He is likely to announce the decision within two days. This, it is learnt, is to avoid the opposition parties make hue and cry when the Karnataka assembly session begins on Monday.
Singh was not available for comments.
Yediyurappa has drawn flak for his decision to appoint Singh as the state forest minister despite about 15 cases pending against him including mining cases in violation of the Karnataka Forest Act. Singh, who owns SB Minerals in Ballari district, was arrested twice in the past on the charges of illegally exporting iron ore from Bellikere port in Karwar.
The CBI had arrested him in 2013 and he was behind bars for two years until he got a conditional bail in 2015. The same year, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) with the Karnataka Lokayukta arrested him on charges of illegal transportation of iron ore.
Singh was a close-associate of the Reddy brothers and was one of the accused in the Lokayukta report on the infamous Ballari mining scam. He switched loyalties and quit the BJP to join the Congress in 2018 just before the Karnataka assembly polls. A year later, he joined the team of rebel MLAs and quit the Congress culminating in the fall of JD(S)-Congress coalition government. In the December 5 (2019) bypolls he contested and won on the BJP ticket. As promised, the chief minister made him the minister this week.
Although he was initially given food and civil supplies portfolio, Singh is said to have asked for the lucrative forest department. A day later, perhaps succumbing to the pressure, Yediyurappa made minor changes to the cabinet and allocated forest to Singh.
S R Hiremath, founder-president of Samaja Parivartana Samudaya who had fought the issue of illegal mining in Ballari told ET that he will wait and see how the chief minister will respond to people’s demand. “We oppose the allocation of forest portfolio to a person who is accused in the mining case.
However, we would like to give reasonable opportunity to the CM to retract and fix the damage. We are hopeful that there will be a change of portfolio, failing which we will explore legal possibilities,” he said.