Three months after he was booked for abetment to suicide, senior BJP leader KS Eshwarappa has been given a clean chit by the Karnataka police.
The police in Udupi on Tuesday, 19 July, filed a ‘B’ report in the suicide case of Santosh Patil — a contractor and Hindutva outfit leader. The report effectively disassociates Eshwarappa — a former deputy chief minister — from Patil’s suicide.
Terming the ‘B’ report “unfair”, Santosh Patil’s wife Renuka has demanded a CBI probe into the case.
The Udupi police’s clean chit to Eshwarappa came just days after Patil’s wife wrote to Karnataka Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot that the influential former minister had been pressurising the police.
‘Not enough evidence’, say police, opposition fumes
Speaking to South First, Udupi Superintendent of Police N Vishnuvardhana indicated the ‘B’ summary report was filed owing to lack of evidence against Eshwarappa.
“There was not sufficient evidence in the case to proceed with the investigation. Citing lack of evidence, we have filed a ‘B’ report in the court,” the Udupi SP said.
Asked if Patil’s repeated and open allegations against Eshwarappa, as well as his suicide note that specifically holds the former minister responsible for his death, were not enough to proceed against the BJP leader, the senior police officer reiterated his statement that there was not enough evidence to support the allegations.
In her letter to the Karnataka Governor earlier this month, Renuka Santosh Patil had expressed concern that the police were being pressurised by Eshwarappa in the case.
“Accused KS Eshwarappa is a former deputy chief minister, former state president of the BJP and was a minister wielding money and muscle power. I am suspicious that he is using this power to pressurise the police and influence the investigation into my husband’s suicide case to get favourable outcomes. I suspect that the police, under his influence, is trying to shut the case in the next 15 days,” Renuka had written in her letter to the governor urging him to ensure a fair investigation.
“KS Eshwarappa has been publicly declaring that he is going to go scot free in the case within a fortnight,” she added.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, a dejected Renuka accused the Udupi police of subverting the investigation.
“We will challenge the ‘B’ report in court. We also want a CBI investigation into my husband’s death. A suicide note was found in my husband’s phone. How can the police say here is no evidence,” she asked.
Before he was found dead at a lodge in Udupi in April this year, Santosh Patil had on multiple occasions, including in interviews to news channels, accused Eshwarappa of demanding bribes to clear bills for completed works worth ₹4 crore. Eshwarappa was then the minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR).
“The police have given Eshwarappa a clean chit without even questioning him in the case. It only proves our point that the government is shielding him. He resigned as minister over these serious allegations, but now police claim there is no evidence,” Priyank Kharge, senior Congress leader and former minister told South First.
The Udupi SP, however, said that Eshwarappa had been questioned, contradicting the Patil’s family claim.
40 percent commission
In April this year Santosh Patil, a contractor and office bearer of Hindu Vahini, hit the headlines when he made allegations of corruption against Eshwarappa.
In a series of statements, Patil alleged that Eshwarappa and his associates had been demanding 40 percent commission to release bills for tendered works he had undertaken on the “oral assurance” of Eshwarappa.
Even earlier, in March this year, Patil had written to Union minister for RDPR Giriraj Singh detailing the harassment he had been facing.
In his March 11 letter, Patil had claimed to have spent ₹4 crore on road works under the RDPR Department on the “oral instructions” of Eshwarappa.
“The minister and his associates are neither providing official work order nor clearing bills for nearly a year,” Patil wrote, adding that a “commission” was being demanded by the minister’s associates to clear the bills. Patil had threatened to kill himself out of a lack of choice if the bills weren’t cleared.
“RDPR minister K.S. Eshwarappa is solely responsible for my death. I am taking this decision keeping my aspirations aside. I request with folded hands to our prime minister, chief minister, our beloved Lingayat leader BSY (former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa) and everybody else to extend a helping hand to my wife and kids (Sic),” said a message sent from Patil’s phone to journalists on April 11 at 11.37 pm.
On April 12, Patil was found dead at a lodge in Udupi after he had gone missing from his home in Belagavi the previous day and hours after he had sent that text message to journalists.
Eshwarappa, however, vehemently rejected allegations leveled against him by Patil. The then minister for RDPR even filed a defamation case against the contractor. The RDPR department too issued an official clarification that no work orders or tenders were given to Santosh Patil as claimed.
Patil as well as his family members, however, insisted that he carried out work only on the assurances given by Eshwarappa.
Following the uproar over Patil’s death in April, an FIR was registered against Eshwarappa for abetment to suicide. A defiant Eshwarappa had refused to step down. The central leadership of the BJP had to force Eshwarappa to resign from the cabinet over Patil’s allegations and death.
On Tuesday, Eshwarappa told reporters that the police had found no evidence against him and it was up to the courts to decide on the case.