A Karnataka BJP MLA has been named as the main accused after an eye-popping mountain of cash worth over Rs 8 crore was found in searches at his home and office and his bureaucrat son was caught accepting a bribe, officials said on Friday, in a huge embarrassment for the party trying to woo voters for elections later this year.
The anti-corruption wing of the Lokayukta - the state's ombudsman - dug out Rs 6 crore in cash at the home of BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa and Rs 1.75 crore from his office after his son Prashanth Madal was caught taking a bribe on Thursday. According to sources, the MLA is untraceable and has applied for a pre-arrest bail. The search went on till late in the night.
Madal Virupakshappa, the MLA from Channagiri in the Davanagere district, was the chairman of the state-owned Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL), which makes the famous Mysore Sandal Soap. He stepped down this morning as the scandal broke. His son is the chief accountant at Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
"There is some conspiracy against my family. I'm submitting resignation under moral responsibility as there is an allegation against me," Mr Virupakshappa said in a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
On Thursday, Karnataka Lokayukta officers caught Mr Virupakshappa's son at the KSDL office while taking a bribe of Rs 40 lakh and arrested him. At least three bags of cash were found at the office, which has also been seized, officials said.
"The anti-corruption branch of Lokayukta yesterday caught Prashanth Madal, son of BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa while taking a bribe of Rs 40 lakh. Over Rs 1.7 crore in cash was recovered from his office," the Karnataka Lokayukta said.
The ombudsman said they had been tipped off by a complaint about Prashanth Madal, a 2008-batch Karnataka Administrative Services officer, demanding a Rs 81-lakh payoff from a contractor for a deal for raw materials need to manufacture soap and other detergents.
"A case was registered. On the basis of that, we laid the trap. Five persons have been arrested, including three people who had turned up with the bribe. [The role of the BJP MLA] is being investigated. There is no pressure from the government," Lokayukta BS Patil told NDTV.
Chief Minister Bommai said the ombudsman will conduct an independent investigation. He also attacked the opposition Congress.
"We have re-established Lokayukta to curb corruption. During the Congress regime, with Lokayukta dissolved, a lot of cases were closed. We will investigate the cases which were closed. Lokayukta is an independent institution and our stand is clear. The institution will investigate independently, and we will not interfere in it," he said.
The Karnataka BJP's efforts to win another term, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda's frequent visits to the state and lavish announcements, have been countered by accusations of corruption in the state government.
The opposition has accused Mr Bommai's administration of instituting a common rate of kickbacks and dubbed it the "40 per cent" government.
"The loot of #40PercentSarkara continues unabated... caught red-handed taking Rs 40 lakh bribe, Now Rs crore recovered from BJP MLA's son's house. Father chairman, son takes money! Cozy Corrupt nexus of BJP!" Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said.