Another top Indian politician quits amid corruption charges

India's main opposition party, which has pushed the government to prosecute ruling Congress Party members accused of corruption, asks one of its own to step down over an illegal mining scam.

Aijaz Rahi/AP
In this Monday, July 25 file photo, India's opposition Bhartiya Janata Party leader and southern state of Karnataka's Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa speaks while defending his alleged corruption charges at a press conference in Bangalore, India.

This story was updated on July 29 at 10:11 a.m.

A leader of India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit as chief minister of the southern state of Karnataka after he was formally implicated in an illegal mining scandal.

Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa was named by a new report into illegal mining in the state on a list of 500 people it says have been involved in illicit activities. His party called for his resignation earlier in the day.

The incident is another indication that Indian politians are serious about cracking down on corruption, in the wake of embarrassing scandals that have damaged the country's standing in recent months. The BJP hopes the move will give it greater authority when it challenges the government over its record on corruption.

“The BJP's actions are aimed at sending a message that corruption will not be tolerated,” says Pankaj Prasoon, director of the Centre for Indian Political Research and Analysis.

The report by India's anticorruption board claims Chief Minister Yeddyurappa has been involved in a number of corrupt activities. It includes accusations that a mining company deposited $2 million into a trust run by his sons, and that the same company purchased property from a son-in-law for 20 times its value. The scams could have cost India up to $3.6 billion in lost revenue, according to the report.

Just a day after the report was officially released (parts had already been leaked to local media), the BJP has called for Yeddyurappa to resign.

"It has been decided there has to be a change in the leadership of the BJP legislature party in Karnataka. Accordingly, Yeddyurappa has been advised to tender his resignation immediately," said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar at a press conference in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Yeddyurappa has denied the allegations but stepped down today.

Reputation for corruption

India has suffered significant reputation damage in the past year, with corruption allegations against government ministers and bureaucrats. In one case, the former Telecommunications Minister Andimuthu Raja is charged with selling 2G spectrum contracts at a grossly undervalued price, costing the Indian government an estimated $40 billion.

The BJP has sought to gain political mileage from these incidents, but its credibility as a party campaigning on anti-corruption values has suffered a blow, given that rumors of Yeddyaruppa's links to illegal mining have been around for more than a year.

The Karnataka leader has long been a vital cog for the BJP, as he is their most high profile – and powerful – politician in south India. But the release of the report made it clear that keeping him would no longer be viable.

"The BJP can now say that the only corrupt element in the party, Yeddyurappa, has now been sacked, and that it is now a clean party," says Mr. Prasoon.

There are growing concerns about the scale of illegal mining in Karnataka, the state that is home to global IT hub Bangalore. Karnataka is a major source of iron ore, and has found a hungry market for it in China. The kingpins are the Reddy brothers, who in addition to owning large tracts of mining land, also now hold state government ministerships.

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