Why did an adamant K S Eshwarappa finally decide to resign?
After his insistence on not resigning in the suicide case of contractor with CM Bommai backing his decision, K S Eshwarappa's sudden announcement to quit the minister's post, came as a surprise to all
After his vehement insistence on not resigning in context of the suicide case of a civil contractor with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai backing his decision, K S Eshwarappa's sudden announcement on Thursday evening to quit the minister's post, came as a surprise to all.
Facing the heat from the Congress in Karnataka and also in New Delhi with Congress leaders D K Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah along with legislators and workers staging round-the-clock agitation, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Eshwarappa had remained unfazed until Thursday evening.
A civil contractor from Belagavi, Santosh K Patil, died by suicide in a hotel in Udupi on April 12. In a WhatsApp message sent to his friends, Patil had named Eshwarappa as the person responsible for his death for allegedly demanding 40 per cent commission amounting to Rs four crore for the road works done by him in Hindalga in Belagavi district.
According to BJP sources, a top functionary in the party hailing from Karnataka and close to the central leadership reportedly had convinced Bommai and BJP state unit President Nalin Kumar Kateel not to seek Eshwarappa's resignation. The reason behind this was that Eshwarappa and Kateel are reportedly this functionary's proteges and his representatives in Karnataka. In fact, the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, which Eshwarappa 'mentored' in 2016 following a rift with former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa was said to be done at this person's behest.
"This functionary sold the idea to the BJP central leadership that by removing Eshwarappa, the party would be losing the backward classes votes just as it happened with the Congress when Veerendra Patil was summarily removed from the Chief Minister's post and the Lingayats distanced from the Congress,'' sources said.
It's said that the BJP National President J P Nadda was not convinced by this explanation, while there was no response from either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who have the final say in such matters. Sources said the party could not hold on to Eshwarappa for long and Bommai who consulted legal experts was told that the whatsApp message and other evidence such as the statement by the gram panchayat member from Belagavi's that Eshwarappa had met Patil several times would go against him.
A senior BJP leader said the victim card also will not mobilise support where corruption is concerned. He cited the examples of raids on Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav's family during the recent UP assembly elections or former CM H D Kumaraswamy's kin in Mandya in 2019. The perception that the Yadav community or the Vokkaligas would come out in their support and vote did not happen as corruption cannot stand before development issues, he added.
Sources said that apart from encouraging Eshwarappa with the Rayanna Brigade, the senior functionary had also tried to stoke a rift between the two leaders of Shivamogga ---Yediyurappa and Eshwarappa---in 2009. Eshwarappa had openly expressed his displeasure over the Shivamogga Lok Sabha ticket being given to a Chief Minister's son. The ticket was given to Yediyurappaa's son B Y Raghavendra in 2009.
He had caused further embarrassment when on the opening day of the Lok Sabha session after the 2009 polls, Eshwarappa said "money and liquor'' were used to woo voters. "I am elated that 19 BJP MPs have won from Karnataka. But I do believe that means are as important as the ends. More than development and ideological issues, distribution of money and liquor were prominently discussed during the elections in Shivamogga,'' he had said.
Even as there is some satisfaction and happiness in Congress circles that the agitation led by their leaders has yielded results in form of Eshwarappa's resignation though not his arrest, the BJP claims the victory came to the Congress easily. "With Eshwarappa delaying his resignation, we handed over this success to the Congress on a silver platter,'' they added.