Top Indian minister quits over mining fraud

NEW DELHI — The scandal-tainted chief minister of an Indian state on Thursday offered to quit following charges he was involved in a $3.6-billion mining fraud, his party told AFP.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 28 Jul 2011, 7:32 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:22 PM

A spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in the capital New Delhi that B.S. Yeddyurappa, head of the BJP government in the state of Karnataka, would resign.

The BJP leadership earlier Thursday “unanimously decided” for a change in the BJP leadership in the resource-rich southern state.

“From what I believe is that he has offered to resign but has not actually handed over his resignation to the Karnataka governor,” BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudi told AFP.

“He is toying around with different ideas,” the spokesman said, referring to Yeddyurappa’s own search for a successor to the post.

“But he has reconciled to the fact that he has to resign,” Rudi added.

Yeddyurappa was named Wednesday in a report published by the southern state’s ombudsman who was investigating corrupt mining practices.

Judge Santosh Hegde accused the chief minister of enabling illicit mining of iron ore in Karnataka, which cost the public exchequer 160.8 billion rupees ($3.6 billion) between 2006 and 2010.

He recommended the prosecution of Yeddyurappa under the Prevention of Corruption Act for his “direct involvement” in the scam.

The mining graft is the latest in a slew of corruption scandals in India, which is still reeling from the allegedly fraudulent sale of telecom licences in 2008 estimated to have cost the country up to $40 billion.

The ombudsman’s explosive findings have cast a shadow on the BJP, which has been leading an anti-graft campaign nationally against the Congress-led government of Premier Manmohan Singh.

Hegde said his probe uncovered “involvement of some 100 mining companies, about 600 officials, powerful politicians including the chief minister”.

The report said the federal and state government exchequers lost money due in the form of royalties, central excise duties, value-added taxes and other levies.

The report also said Yeddyurappa’s family, including one who is a BJP member of the national parliament, benefited from the fraud.

Yeddyurappa, who also faces allegations of selling government land at below market cost to family members, took office in 2008 when he led the BJP to a first-time win in the southern state.

BJP spokesman Rudi tried to make light of the problems facing the Hindu nationalist party.

“This is nothing unusual... they happen in politics,” he commented.

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