Amidst Pressure, Karnataka Police Book Minister Eshwarappa Over Contractor's Death

Santosh Patil's family has vowed not to hold a funeral until the minister is arrested. Congress, too, has criticised CM Bommai over alleged inaction.

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New Delhi: Udupi police in Karnataka have registered an FIR against state minister K.S. Eshwarappa and two of his aides over the death of Santosh Patil, a contractor who levelled corruption charges against him.

Indian Express has reported that the minister was booked under section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

Patil’s family, Deccan Herald has reported, has held that Eshwarappa is directly responsible for his death and has vowed not to organise his funeral until the minister is arrested.

Patil was found dead in a hotel room in Udupi on Tuesday morning. He had earlier accused the Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj minister, Eshwarappa, of demanding 40% commission in a public work executed by him.

The Hindu has reported that a few weeks ago, Patil had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he had invested Rs 4 crore on building roads in his village based on oral instructions given by Eshwarappa. Patil wrote that the minister had lied to him and was responsible for irregularities, and urged Modi to direct Eshwarappa to settle his bills.

The minister had dismissed his allegations and also filed a defamation suit against him, telling The News Minute – which first reported on the corruption allegations – that he had only learned of Patil’s death from the media.

However, his brother Prashanth Patil told reporters that Santosh had had cordial relationship with Eshwarappa. “The minister is cooking up a story that Santosh was not known to him,” Prashanth said.

Patil, too, was a BJP member and was national secretary of Hindu Yuva Vahini.

In the aftermath of his death, opposition parties, too, had amped pressure on BJP – in power in both Karnataka and the Union.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had accused the prime minister and the Karnataka chief minister of being complicit in the contractor’s death, saying that the victim’s pleas to them went unanswered.

“BJP’s 40% Commission Government in Karnataka has claimed the life of their own Karyakarta. The victim’s pleas to the PM went unanswered. The PM and CM are complicit. #BJPCorruptionFiles,” Gandhi said on Twitter.

Eshwarappa has earlier turned down the demand of the Congress which sought his resignation.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the police will conduct a “thorough and transparent investigation” into the contractor’s death. He also ruled out any resignations in this regard.

Congress’s Randeep Singh Surjewala had taken on the chief minister’s stance and said, “Hang your head in shame Mr. Bommai! You are not only condoning corruption, You are also discounting the death of a BJP worker & dishonouring him only to protect Corruption!”.

Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar also alleged that “it’s a murder, not suicide. If the BJP has any shame they will immediately arrest the minister.”

“I demand an immediate time-bound judicial inquiry into the alleged suicide’ of Santosh Patil,” Shivakumar said in a tweet.

He said a businessman who had publicly alleged that BJP leaders and ministers were asking for bribes has been suspiciously found dead.

“Corruption is at an all time high under the BJP rule,” he alleged.

“The unease of doing business in Karnataka is such that private companies don’t want to invest in the state. This is one of the reasons why we have high unemployment rate. Job creators are harassed by BJP’s corruption demands,” the state Congress chief said.

This is the second FIR against Eshwarappa this month. Earlier in April, Karnataka police booked him for his provocative statements in connection with a Bajrang Dal activist’s murder in the state’s Shivamogga district.

(With PTI inputs)