TWO DAYS after he was named as an accused in a case registered over the “unnatural death”Of a civil contractor, Karnataka Minister and senior BJP leader KS Eshwarappa announced that he would resign from the State Cabinet on Friday.
“I have worked as the Rural Development Minister in the Bommai government. I have decided today that I will resign as Minister tomorrow, ”Eshwarappa said during a short media briefing in Shivamogga on Thursday.
The minister said he was quitting “to prevent embarrassment to the BJP” and would submit his resignation to Bommai in Bengaluru.
The contractor, Santhosh Patil (40), was found dead Tuesday in a lodge in Udupi region. He is suspected to have consumed poison, and the police are investigating it as a suspected case of suicide.
Prior to his death, Patil had accused Eshwarappa and his associates of not releasing payments for road work worth Rs 4 crore, which he had carried out at Hindalga village in Belagavi, and “demanding a commission of 40 per cent”.
Reacting to Eshwarappa’s announcement, Bommai said they spoke in the evening and that the decision was taken after “a lot of consideration”.
“He said he has full confidence that he is not involved in any way in the matter and that he has the moral courage, but if he continues it gives a lot of people a chance to talk and create embarrassment. He said this should not happen and that an investigation must be completed at the earliest and the truth should come out. He said the truth would result in the dropping of cases against him, “said Bommai.
A veteran leader of the BJP in Karnataka and a hard-core RSS man, Eshwarappa is known to have enjoyed the backing of the BJP central leadership over the years. The OBC Kuruba community leader was often used by the BJP to counter Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa’s hegemony over the party.
Bommai said “there was no pressure from the party high command” on the issue. “We informed them of the circumstances of the incident. Eshwarappa has decided to resign of his own volition, ”he said.
On the possibility of the case being given to a major investigative agency, Bommai said: “Let us first obtain the preliminary investigation report.”
On Monday night, the contractor had purportedly sent messages to journalists and friends in Belagavi, where he hailed from, alleging that Eshwarappa should be held responsible for his death.
On Tuesday night, Eshwarappa was named as an accused in a case of abetment of suicide that was filed by the Udupi Town police on the basis of a complaint by Prashant Patil, the brother of the contractor.
Eshwarappa had initially appeared defiant on quitting although Bommai had indicated that a resignation would be sought after the FIR. The minister had earlier claimed that he did not know Patil, and filed a defamation case against him on March 14.
On Wednesday, the Opposition Congress approached Governor Thawarchand Gehlot and sought Eshwarappa’s dismissal from the Cabinet and his arrest. JD (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy had also called for the Minister’s resignation.
Eshwarappa’s announcement on Thursday came even as the Congress decided to hold a night-long protest to seek his ouster after laying siege to Bommai’s residence in the morning.
Describing the announcement as “a victory for the people of the state”, Congress state president DK Shivakumar said: “Our demand is also that a case should be registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Our second demand is that he should be arrested and that a judicial inquiry should be conducted. “
On Wednesday, Eshwarappa had appeared defiant at a press conference in Shivamogga. “There is no question of resignation at all… I want to tell the people of Karnataka that we have to conduct an exemplary investigation and find out who is behind this conspiracy. This is my demand, ”he had said.
“There are no valid documents to show that a contract was awarded for the Rural Development department to say that a payment can be made,” he had said.