‘Will not bow to opposition’: Karnataka Minister Eshwarappa refuses to quit

Senior Karnataka Minister R Eshwarappa has been booked for abetment of suicide in connection with the alleged suicide of a 37 year-old civil contractor who had accused him of corruption, but remained defiant in the face of mounting pressure for his ouster from the state Cabinet, saying there was no need for his resignation. Stepping up pressure, opposition Congress urged state Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot to dismiss Eshwarappa from the council of Ministers, even as the embattled BJP leader called for a probe into the ‘conspiracy’ behind the death of Santosh K Patil, who had levelled the bribery charges against him earlier.

While Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said he would speak to Eshwarappa on the issue to find out what actually happened, BJP general secretary and Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh maintained this was not a simple incident and that every aspect of it would be investigated. The family members of Patil refused to accept his body until the accused in the case are not arrested. Earlier, the Udupi police filed an FIR against Eshwarappa, the Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) minister for abetment of suicide over the contractor’s death, based on a complaint from his brother Prashanth Patil. The FIR was registered on Tuesday night. Patil was earlier in the day found dead at a Udupi lodge.

The complaint by Prashanth named Eshwarappa and his staff members Ramesh and Basavaraj as the accused. In the complaint, Prashanth Patil said in the year 2020-21 residents of Hindalaga village had called on Eshwarappa in Bengaluru and requested him to lay roads, construct storm water drain and pavement in the hamlet. He further said that Eshwarappa gave the nod to start work without worrying about the budget, following which Santosh Patil was awarded the contract.

The complainant contended that his brother had undertaken works worth Rs four crore in the village. He had invested his money in the project and the bill for the work was pending. Santosh had visited minister Eshwarappa several times and pleaded him to release the amount. But his close aides Basavaraj and Ramesh were demanding 40 per cent commission, the complaint alleged. The Udupi police on Wednesday completed the inquest into the death of Patil.

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Meanwhile, in Shivamogga, Eshwarappa ruled out resigning from his post, even as he wondered if a WhatsApp message can be treated as a “death note,” referring to the purported WhatsApp message from Patil. “The question of my resignation does not arise at all. I will not bow to the opposition demand for my resignation,” Eshwarappa said in a press conference at his home town. 

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, speaking to reporters in Mangaluru, “an FIR has been filed.”

“I am going to talk to him (Eshwarappa) now, and will collect information from him. Will talk to him on a few things over the phone and will summon him for a one-to-one discussion.”

Accusing the opposition Congress of attempting to find fault in the case, he said the investigation will reveal the truth. The CM reiterated that there will not be any interference in the case and the inquiry will happen in accordance with the law. Bommai maintained that the BJP national leaders were aware of this entire issue.

BJP Karnataka in charge Arun Singh said, “This is a very sad incident. I express my deepest sorrow over it. The Chief Minister is getting the entire case investigated. What are the angles behind it? Who are behind this? Who abetted him? There will be a decision shortly on this,” Singh told reporters in Chikkodi in Belagavi district.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress sought to step up the pressure on the ruling BJP, with a party delegation led by Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah and the party’s state chief D K Shivakumar calling on Governor Gehlot and demanding Eshwarappa’s dismissal from the cabinet. Congress workers and the Aam Aadmi Party activists staged a demonstration in the city demanding action against Eshwarappa. They demanded his sacking from the Cabinet. Meanwhile, Patil’s brother Prashanth demanded that the accused should be arrested before the post-mortem of the body is conducted.

“We will not allow shifting of the body to Manipal. We have already informed our stand to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. We are fighting for justice and the decision has been taken for the peace of Santhosh’s soul,” Patil told reporters in Udupi. 

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