New Delhi: K S Eshwarappa, a Karnataka minister and senior BJP leader, announced his resignation from the State Cabinet on Friday, just two days after being identified as an accused in a case involving the “unnatural death” of a construction contractor.
“I have worked as 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.
Santhosh Patil (40), the contractor, was discovered dead in a resort in the Udupi region on Tuesday. He is accused of ingesting poison, and the authorities are examining the case as a possible suicide.
Prior to his death, Patil accused Eshwarappa and his friends of refusing to pay him for road work worth Rs 4 crore that he had completed in Hindalga village in Belagavi, and of “demanding a 40% fee.”
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 will result in the dropping of cases against him,” Bommai said.
Eshwarappa, a long-serving BJP politician in Karnataka and a staunch RSS supporter, is known to have had the support of the BJP’s national leadership over the years. The BJP frequently employed the OBC Kuruba community leader to oppose Lingayat strongman B S Yediyurappa’s grip 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.”
The contractor allegedly sent messages to journalists and friends in Belagavi, where he was from, on Monday night, stating that Eshwarappa was to blame for his death.
On Tuesday night, Eshwarappa was listed as a suspect in a case of abetment of suicide filed by the Udupi Town police department in response to a complaint from the contractor’s brother, Prashant Patil.
Although Bommai had hinted that a resignation would be sought after the FIR, Eshwarappa first appeared obstinate about retiring. On March 14, the Minister claimed that he did not know Patil and initiated a slander suit against him.
On Wednesday, the Opposition Congress demanded Eshwarappa’s removal from the Cabinet and his arrest from Governor Thawarchand Gehlot. H D Kumaraswamy, the leader of the JD(S), had also demanded the Minister’s resignation.
After laying siege to Bommai’s mansion in the morning, the Congress resolved to stage a night-long protest on Thursday to demand Eshwarappa’s removal.
Describing the announcement as “a victory for the people of the state”, Congress state president D K 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.
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