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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"Bangaru Laxman is seen accepting a wad of cash"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 18:37 GMT
Party boss quits after web sting
Bofors gun
Taking commission for defence deals is illegal in India
The president of India's ruling party has resigned over corruption allegations, which he has denied.

Bangaru Laxman, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, resigned after an Indian website accused him of taking money in connection with supposed defence deals.

Tehelka report
Tehelka.com said the report showed the extent of corruption
Mr Laxman, who said earlier there was "no question" of resigning, maintains he was a victim of a political conspiracy and that he accepted the money only for the party.

After an emergency cabinet meeting, the Indian Government said it was ready to investigate the allegations made by the news and entertainment portal, Tehelka.com.

Damning footage

The website said two of its journalists had posed as businessmen for a fake company, West End International, trying to sell fictitious hand-held thermal imaging devices to the Indian military.

Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister Vajpayee refused comment
They used hidden cameras to videotape politicians, bureaucrats and army officers accepting money from the two journalists.

In one of the most dramatic clips, Mr Laxman is shown taking a wad of currency notes and placing it next to him.

The incident has created a political storm and comes amid court hearings into the Bofors arms scandal in the 1980s, in which a number of Indian politicians as well as businessmen are accused of taking bribes.

Both the opposition Congress as well as the Communist Party have attacked the government over the scandal.

"This government has no moral right to continue even for a minute if it is not in a position to disprove the facts revealed by tehelka.com," Jaipal Reddy, Congress party spokesman, said.

Commissions in defence deals are illegal in India.

'Concocted'

Mr Laxman, who became BJP president last year, said he had accepted 100,000 rupees ($2,170) as a donation for the party.

"As president I am not barred from taking funds for the party," he said.


It shows how the cancer of corruption reaches everywhere and touches everyone

Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal
He described the episode as "concocted," saying he had handed over the money to the party treasurer.

He also said the two journalists had posed as traders, rather than arms dealers.

Another politician said to be implicated is Jaya Jaitley, the leader of the Samata Party and a key member of the BJP-led ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Vajpayee has so far refused to comment, saying he wanted to read the report by Tehelka.com.

The editor-in-chief of Tehelka.com, Tarun Tejpal, has described the sting as a story of "the suitcase people."

"It shows how the cancer of corruption reaches everywhere and touches everyone," he said.

He said the video purportedly exposing corrupt deals had been put together from about 100 hours of footage secretly shot over some six months.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Hindujas asked for Bofors details
01 Aug 00 | South Asia
Lower caste chief for BJP
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