By P.T. Bopanna
With the sitting BJP MLA K.G. Bopaiah being dragged into the controversy over his alleged involvement in the ‘40 per cent commission scam’ that has sullied the image of the BJP government in Karnataka, Reena Prakash (in picture), the party’s female face in Kodagu, has emerged as the frontrunner for the MLA ticket in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections from Virajpet constituency.
The BJP government headed by Basavaraj Bommai has been rattled by the scam which led to the resignation of minister K.S. Eshwarappa following the alleged suicide by a contractor who claimed that the minister had not cleared his bill for non-payment of 40 per cent commission.
Close on the heels of the controversy, Kodagu district contractors’ association president Ravi Chengappa has alleged that MLA Bopaiah too sought kickbacks for releasing payment to contractors in Kodagu.
In fact, the BJP high command was in favour of giving the ticket to Reena Prakash in the last assembly elections, but in the last moment the ticket went to Bopaiah following pressure from his political ‘godfather’ B.S. Yeddyurappa whose government survived because of the partisan role played by Bopaiah as Speaker.
It has been a long pending demand of the Kodava community in Kodagu to give the ticket to a Kodava to contest from Virajpet constituency as the community has over 50,000 voters in the district.
Most of the Kodavas perceive Bopaiah, who belongs to the Arebashe Gowda community, as working against their interest in a clandestine manner. Bopaiah is being blamed for the court cases that are being filed repeatedly by certain ‘anti-Kodava elements’ to deny the arms exemptions given to the Kodavas.
Bopaiah has also been blamed for preventing entry to Kodavas to Talacauvery temple during the Theerthodbhava two years ago.
When this reporter sought to know from a hard-core BJP worker on whether Bopaiah should be given the ticket, he replied: “I will not cast my vote if Bopaiah is given the ticket.”
Besides facing serious charges involving land-grabbing, Bopaiah has been pulled up by the Supreme Court for his partisan role as Speaker.
In October 2010, when then chief minister Yediyurappa faced a trust vote, Bopaiah disqualified five independent MLAs and 11 BJP MLAs for going against the chief minister.
The Supreme Court quashed the disqualification of MLAs by making strong observations on the Speaker that he acted in “hot haste”. A Supreme Court bench, comprising chief justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Cyriac Joseph, ruled that his decision not to serve notice on the MLAs or hear their version amounted to violation of the principles of fair play and natural justice.
With the Congress all set to give the party ticket to former additional advocate-general A.S. Ponnanna from Virajpet, it is no more a cakewalk for BJP. A section of the Kodava community has already rallied behind Ponnanna, son of the late firebrand leader A.K. Subbaiah.
In the circumstances, the BJP may offer the ticket to Reena Prakash, who has been an active party worker and held important positions, including as president of State BJP Mahila Morcha.
Pattada Reena Prakash, an advocate by profession, has also served as vice-chairperson of Coffee Board and is said to be close to Union minister Smriti Irani.