South Asia

India's BJP 'put pressure on anti-corruption judge'

Justice Santosh Hegde
Image caption Justice Santosh Hegde has won acclaim for fighting corruption

India's main opposition BJP wanted the Karnataka chief minister's name dropped as a key suspect in a report on illegal mining, a former judge told the BBC.

Judge Santosh Hegde, the state's anti-corruption chief, said he refused to bow to pressure from Dhananjay Kumar, a former BJP cabinet minister.

Mr Kumar admits meeting Justice Hegde, but denies asking him to omit BJP Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa's name.

Mr Yeddyurappa denies profiting from illegal mining.

"So far they have not submitted the report," he told India's Times Now channel in Mauritius, where he is on holiday. "So many things may be media speculation."

Justice Hegde says the alleged mining scam cost the state $400m (£250m).

He says other members of the state's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, as well as politicians from the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) parties also profited from illegal mining.

Illegal mining has allegedly been rife for years in Karnataka. It produces about 45 million tonnes of iron ore a year and exports more than half of it to China.

'Laughed'

"Dhananjay Kumar came to my house and asked me not to name the chief minister in the report," Justice Hegde told the BBC Hindi service.

"I laughed. I said no pressure would work on me."

Mr Kumar admitted that he and other party leaders had met the judge, but said that at no point did he try to raise the issue of illegal mining. He challenged the judge to prove his allegation.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj has vowed to take action on the report, which is due to be submitted in the next few days. Parts of the report were leaked this week.

"Justice Hegde is a competent man. Whatever he recommends, I will go according to it," Mr Bharadwaj told reporters.

The BJP, too, is waiting for the report to be submitted before it decides its course of action. Its embattled chief minister is also facing charges of corruption and nepotism in land deals and is being investigated separately by the courts.

Correspondents say the BJP appears reluctant to act against Mr Yeddyurappa, who is from the influential Lingayat community. His departure from his post could bring down the party's only government in southern India.

The affair is highly embarrassing for the BJP after months on the offensive against India's governing Congress party, which itself is embroiled in a series of damaging corruption scandals.

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