The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka, already battling debilitating scandals, is now caught in a new controversy. State advocate general B V Acharya has resigned, accusing the party of pressuring him to quit as prosecutor in a corruption case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Acharya, a 78-year-old veteran lawyer who has been advocate general several times earlier, said he has chosen to continue as special public prosecutor in the Jayalalithaa case rather than give in to the pressure from "the (Karnataka) government and some BJP leaders".
"I have been under tremendous pressure to quit as SPP," he told reporters late Wednesday after submitting his resignation to Governor H R Bhardwaj. The resignation has been accepted.
Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, however, denied Acharya's claims. He told reporters Thursday that a petition has been filed in the high court challenging Acharya holding two posts simultaneously.
"We had told him to give up one post and not specifically the SPP post," he said.
Acharya had said Wednesday there was no legal bar on him being the advocate general (AG) and also a special public prosecutor.
Acharya's reasons for quitting the AG's post may snowball into a major row if Congress and other parties join the issue.
It is already being seen in political circles as a possible attempt by the BJP to please Jayalalithaa, whom several senior BJP leaders have described "as a naturally ally".
The BJP might be scouting for allies to face the next Lok Sabha polls, due in early 2014, as it has little hopes of coming to power at New Delhi on its own.
Jayalalithaa, who heads the AIADMK, had once aligned with BJP. The rival DMK headed by M Karunanidhi had also aligned with the BJP.
Acharya said he preferred to continue as SPP in the Jayalalithaa case because he was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court on the direction of the Supreme Court.
The controversy over the BJP's alleged pressure on Acharya comes close on the heels of three BJP ministers quitting their posts on Wednesday, after two of them were caught watching porn in the assembly.
The case against Jayalalithaa is that she amassed assets worth over Rs.60 crore during her first tenure as chief minister. The case has been transferred to a Bangalore court by the Supreme Court to ensure a fair trial.
Jayalalithaa has appeared twice in person in the court and answered over 1,000 questions on the assets and how she acquired them.
Acharya said his decision to quit as advocate general had nothing to do with allegations of financial irregularities of the Bangalore-based education trust he is involved with.
Acharya has been advocate general of the state five times earlier. He was appointed SPP in 2004 and had served as advocate general in 2007-08 also simultaneously. Acharya was appointed again in August last year after Sadananda Gowda took over from B S Yeddyurappa who quit over corruption charges.