No doubt the BJP will have an argument ready as to why Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa should not step down immediately. But coming after the leaked Karnataka Lokayu-kta's report - confirmed by Lokayukta Santosh Hegde - which has named the chief minister in its probe into illegal mining in the state, such an argument will be seriously bereft of any force. Coming as this charge does with the Karnataka high court allowing Mr Yeddyurappa and his family to be questioned over illegal land distribution, the matter has moved from the strictly political to the judicial. Mr Yeddyurappa's party may be thinking that it is terrible politics to change its stance of utter support 'mid-stream'. The temptation to see the lokayukta as an 'ordinary' probe agency and not the final word in pronouncing guilt or innocence has also become weak. As has the 'tu-tu mein-mein' cacophony that usually erupts after each time a scandal from the BJP - or the Congress - camp comes to light. But Mr Hegde's probe is a solid base on which proceedings will undoubtedly follow once the report is officially tabled on Monday. For Mr Yeddyurappa to fight this indictment now would be to put the BJP in a moral position from which it would be extremely difficult to recover.
The lokayukta has reportedly been categorical in its investigations. "In the time period of 14 months," says the report, "the chief minster is responsible for what's happening in Bellary because of the fact that the minister-in-charge (G Janardhana Reddy of the BJP) is owner of a mining company and a mafia-like situation is created with every official being involved". The BJP can't find relief in the fact that the report has also named former Janata Dal (Secular) chief minister HD Kumaraswamy in its report. Even the noise created by the fact that the first lokayukta report in 2009 that indicted Congress chief minister Dharam Singh for allegedly granting permits for the transport of illegally mined ore will not be able to stem the tide of the taint in the here and now - over which Mr Yeddyurappa presides. Reportedly more than 500 people across partylines named in the latest report will, in the trajectory of things, come under the scanner only after the presiding worthies come directly under the judicial eye.
For the BJP, the space for political manoeuvrability sought before through the theological distinction between 'illegal' and 'immoral' is on its way to be demolished. For the sake of the party that should have been planning an 'exit clause' for Mr Yeddyurappa earlier, the chief minister should step down. And if he hasn't yet read the message, the BJP should read it out to him.