India's graft scandal spreads

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The Independent Online
India's spreading corruption scandal has engulfed another victim. SR Bommai, president of the left-wing Janata Dal party, was forced to resign yesterday after his name appeared in an Indian industrialist's diary that listed pay-offs made to dozens of top politicians.

Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister, is accused of receiving pounds 550,000 from the Jain industrialist family, and the opposition is demanding that he should resign. Mr Rao is alleged to have received the sum through a shady holy man and power broker, Chandra Swamy. So far, the explosive contents of the Jain diaries have led to the resignation of the main opposition party president, Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and three cabinet ministers from the ruling Congress party.

With general elections only three months away, the Janata Dal hastily replaced Mr Bommai with Bihar state's populist chief minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav. The Janata Dal is the largest party within the left-wing National Front, a mosaic of regional alliances and parties representing the country's 120 million Muslims as well as Hindus on the lower rungs of the caste hierarchy.

Mr Yadav comes from Bihar's large but lowly cow-herding caste, and since taking office as chief minister he has been threatening to turn Patna's exclusive golf course into a school for dairymen.He also enraged upper- caste Brahmins by paving the way for a few Untouchables to become Hindu priests.

No single party may win enough votes in April to form a new government. The Congress party has slipped so badly that, according to a secret opinion poll carried out by the police Intelligence Bureau, it will come third behind the BJP and the National Front.