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Siddaramaiah, two others dropped

Special Correspondent

Protesters turn violent at Hoskote, buses set afire; police open fire in air, lob teargas shells



Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh and KPCC president M. Mallikarjuna Kharge coming out of Raj Bhavan after meeting Governor T.N. Chaturvedi in Bangalore on Friday. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

BANGALORE: On a day of fast-moving political developments, Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and two Ministers were dropped from the Council of Ministers on Friday after they refused to resign. Acting on the advice of Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh, Governor T.N. Chaturvedi relieved them of their posts. The others are Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj H.C. Mahadevappa and Minister of State for Textiles Satish Jharkiholi.

Mr. Dharam Singh of the Congress acted on a letter from N. Thippanna, president of the Janata Dal (S), his coalition partner. Mr. Thippanna recommended that the three be dropped and asked the Chief Minister to appoint Revenue Minister M.P. Prakash as Deputy Chief Minister.

This ended a year-long uneasy relationship between the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Mr. Siddaramaiah. The situation had reached flashpoint when the latter attended a rally of backward classes and minorities in Hubli on July 24.

Things were in a state of flux until the Chief Minister sent his letter to the Raj Bhavan. Mr. Dharam Singh confirmed he had received Mr. Thippanna's letter stating that Mr. Prakash had been elected Janata Dal (S) Legislature Party leader in place of Mr. Siddaramaiah.

The Chief Minister toyed with the idea of holding a Cabinet meeting and seeking the resignations of the three along with those of the Congress Ministers. But Mr. Siddaramaiah and the two Ministers remained defiant.

The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who was at his wit's end, was reportedly ready to fax a message to Congress president Sonia Gandhi when the Chief Minister's recommendation to the Governor was delayed.

Sources in the Chief Minister's Secretariat told The Hindu that the Chief Minister delayed the decision because there were two claimants to the post of the Janata Dal (S) Legislature Party leader. There was lack of clarity over the role of Assembly Speaker Krishna too.

On learning this, Mr. Prakash and Industries Minister P.G.R. Sindhia reached the Legislative Assembly Secretariat and ensured that a bulletin was issued in this regard.

Violence

Elsewhere, angry activists of AHIND (Alpasankyataru, Hindulidavaru and Dalitaru) turned violent in the politically sensitive Hoskote near here in protest against the ouster of Mr. Siddaramaiah.

The police fired nine rounds in the air, lobbed teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge to disperse stone-throwing arsonists. The police said the protesters set fire to three buses, two of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and one of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).

Nearly 25 buses were damaged. Some passengers in the buses were injured. Some of the protesters were injured in the lathicharge, the police said. Vehicular traffic on the busy Bangalore-Chennai Highway and the Bangalore-Chintamani Road was affected for two hours.

According to the police, around 12.30 p.m. a crowd blocked the Bangalore-Chennai Highway at Kurubarapet Circle and KEB Circle. They made a bonfire of tyres.

Caught in the traffic jams, KSRTC and BMTC buses became easy targets for the protesters. Two KSRTC buses were set ablaze near Kurubarapet Circle and a BMTC bus was set on fire near KEB Circle, the police said. When the lathicharge failed to disperse the crowd, the police lobbed teargas shells and fired nine rounds in air. The Hoskote police arrested 15 persons on a charge of rioting. Security was tightened in the town. Normality returned by evening.

Several Dalit Sangarsha Samithi (DSS) activists took part in the demonstration organised by AHIND, a forum of minorities, backward classes and Dalits, the police said. The organisation wanted Friday to be observed as a black day to protest against the removal of Mr. Siddaramaiah.

Activists of AHIND and supporters of Mr. Siddaramaiah staged demonstrations at Vijayanagar, Marenahalli, Attiguppe and Konanakunte Cross in Bangalore and at Varthur near the city. They burnt effigies of Mr. Deve Gowda and raised slogans against him.

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