Bangalore, May 02: The BJP government in Karnataka received a jolt on Sunday when Food and Civil Supplies Minister Harathalu Halappa quit following a media report which alleged that he sexually assaulted a friend’s wife.
The minister resigned after a leading Kannada daily carried a front-page story that alleged that he sexually assaulted the wife of a social worker.
Halappa rubbished the newspaper report, dubbing it "baseless and untrue" and saw a political conspiracy by his opponents including some from his own party but did not name them.
The incident allegedly took place some four months ago. No police complaint has been registered.
"There is no truth in it. I am being targeted. I am quitting on moral grounds. I don’t want to embarrass my party, partymen and the Government. Let them come out with evidence to prove the charge," he told reporters.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa said in Belgaum that he had accepted the resignation, saying the Minister insisted on quitting to prevent the opposition parties from "capitalising" on the report ahead of the Panchayat elections on May eight and May 12.
Yeddyurappa virtually gave a clean chit to Halappa, who represents Soraba constituency, saying he is a loyal partyman and a "satvik" (noble) person, who has not faced any allegation in his life.
"Prima facie, there appears to be no truth in the allegations. I told him not to take a hasty decision but he forced me to accept his resignation saying he does not want to embarrass the party, and he wants to clear his name".
Yeddyurappa saw the report as a "political conspiracy" by opponents who cannot digest the fact that the BJP government, the first in south India, is implementing a development- oriented agenda and that the party had also won the recent elections to Bangalore city corporation.
The newspaper report, which did not name the Cabinet Minister but left no one in doubt as to who it was referring to, alleged that he came to one of his friends’ residence for dinner and thereafter chose to spend the night there.
At around midnight, the Minister said he was feeling uncomfortable and told his friend to bring medicine for him from his security staff who were staying at inspection bungalow, the report claimed. He said he was suffering from low blood pressure and there was danger to his life, it claimed.
The report alleged that on his return after not finding any security personnel, the friend saw his wife sobbing and alleging that she had been "sexually assaulted".
Meanwhile, President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee R V Deshpande said a criminal case should be filed against Halappa and inquiry held.
He said he has convened a party meeting tomorrow to decide on the strategy vis-a-vis this issue as "the prestige and protection of women" are involved.
Yeddyurappa said Transport Minister R Ashoka would hold additional charge of the department of Food and Civil Supplies.