Karnataka politics has been taken by a storm after the death of a public works contractor Santosh Patil at a hotel room in Udupi, after he is said to have named Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Minister KS Eshwarappa in his last Whatsapp message suicide note.
Opposition parties on the streets
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the Prime Minister and Chief Minister are complicit as he tweeted about the issue. “BJP’s 40% Commission Govt in Karnataka has claimed the life of their own Karyakarta. The victim’s pleas to the PM went unanswered. PM & CM are complicit,” read the tweet.
All opposition parties have jumped into the fray demanding the government take action against the said Minister who has in a press conference this afternoon (13 April) denied all allegations as well as knowing the deceased contractor.
“Congress is demanding my resignation saying a wrong act has taken place with some work related to our department. But the way our system works is different. Has the contractor submitted bills? Secondly, there has been no death note, but they are floating some fake note and seeking that I resign,” said Eshwarappa in the press conference defending his stand, while also clarifying that he doesn't even know the deceased and that there was no question of resignation.
“When there was no work order, how could the work have been done,” he asked.
The state BJP leaders including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who was in coastal Karnataka as part of the state wide tour was ‘gheraod’ by youth Congress leaders and workers demanding Eshwarappa’s resignation. In capital city Bengaluru too, AAP workers had taken to the streets calling for the arrest of Eshwarappa at the earliest.
Congress workers led by Mohammad Nalapad took to protesting outside Bommai’s official residence at Krishna, a few of whom were then arrested just before Bommai’s official residence.
As reported by TV9, the National General Secretary BL Santosh is said to have briefed PM Narendra Modi about the recent events. Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha M Mallikarjun Kharge had earlier accused the PM of being responsible for Patil’s death.
All Congress leaders including KPCC Chief D K Shivakumar, LOP and former CM Siddharamaiah, INC General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala are said to be heading to Belagavi to visit the family of Patil and pay final respects.
Who is Santosh Patil?
Santosh originally hailing from Belagavi worked as a civil contractor and is said to have identified himself as a BJP worker. As part of the Karnataka Contractor’s Association had written to PM Modi accusing the state‘s ministers and government officers of demanding 40 per cent commission for clearing the bills.
Santosh in his letter is said to have alleged that the Minister and his associates were harassing him seeking commission for clearing the bills for the civil works that he had carried out on the instructions of Eshwarappa.
“Percentage politics ruling the roost in the state is a well-known fact. Yet, Mr Modi did not pay attention to it. At least now, after a contractor has committed suicide for the same reason, Mr Modi should look at what is happening in Karnataka,” Kharge said, as quoted.
What does the Karnataka Contractor Association have to say?
The Karnataka Contractor Association held a press conference, wherein among other charges they said that corruption takes place even in the CM’s office, although we don't know if he is party to it or not. This clip was tweeted out by Surjewala saying, “CM Bommai’s Office also involved in Corruption” - allege President of Contractor’s Association! Top to bottom, the entire BJP Govt is mired in the muck of corruption. Time to show BJP the door in Karnataka”.
Speaking to media persons, President of KCA Kempanna said the association has been making repeated attempts complaining of the increase in corruption in the civil works of the state since 2015.
‘Corruption has always been there but since 2019 it has been abnormal,” he said recollecting that they have made appeals to B S Yediyurappa as well as current CM B S Bommai, the governor and finally sent a registered post to the PM. He also alleged that the Health and Irrigation departments among others are the most corrupt in the state.
“There is massive corruption in the departments of Irrigation, Public Works, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and the BBMP. We have sought an independent enquiry," Kempanna said. While he said that ‘many contractors have documents to show the corruption, most are scared as this is a ‘rowdyism’ government’, adding that various contractors have been receiving threats from legislators.
“We are not blackmailing. Our allegations are true. Health Minister K Sudhakar is the most corrupt and he is getting 5 per cent cut in every tender. The ministers decide the allotment of tender much before the tender process. For example, Rs 10,000 crore development works have been taken up in R R Nagar constituency of Bengaluru but the work is substandard," he said.
The Association has said it would make public proofs of corruption in various departments if the kickbacks system does not come to an end in 15 days.
“Rural Development, PWD, BBMP and Irrigation ministers have their own agents. Even the CM`s office is not an exception. There are audio records on commission given to them. Minister Sudhakar`s family members are carrying out 60 per cent works. His wife gives cheques for work. Son of a Chitradurga MLA has quit the medical profession to become a contractor,” Kempanna added.
The association has decide to gather around 50,000 contractors in Bengaluru on 25 May, and halt all work until then for almost a month to protest against this ‘most corrupt government‘.
What the BJP leaders and the government has to say.
Minister for Health Sudhakar responded to allegations by Kemapanna calling him a ‘Congress Agent’.
CM Bommai on the other hand said he would talk to Eshwarappa on his return to Bengaluru but assured that an impartial probe with zero interference into the suicide of Patil would take place. “After I speak to him personally, I will have clarity on the issue in order to take further decisions. The party high command is also aware of the developments and I have briefed them on the same,” he said as quoted, adding that an FIR had been filed against Eshwarappa and others.
BJP leaders from Belagavi former MLC Mahantesh Kavatagimath and Minister for industries Murugesh Nirani visited the home of the deceased and offered condolences while asking Congress leaders not to politicise the unfortunate event.
While assuring to support the bereaved family, Nirani though dismissed charges of corruption levelled by Patil. “There are prescribed procedures and norms in awards contracts and issuing tenders. The tenders have to be advertised and work orders have to be issued after acceptance of the tenders," he said, questioning how then could Patil have executed the works worth Rs 4 crore.
The body of the deceased has been finally moved for post-mortem at 5pm after a visit by the forensic team to the site of the suicide.
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