Senior BJP leader and Karnataka’s minister of rural development and panchayat raj KS Eshwarappa resigned from his Cabinet post after being charged with abetment of suicide along with two of his aides for the death of a contractor who had accused the minister of corruption in his suicide note.

Since the victim contractor Santosh Patil’s death by suicide on April 12, the Congress has been staging protests seeking Eshwarappa’s resignation and arrest, as Patil had reportedly left a Whatsapp note to his friends and sections of the media holding the minister “solely responsible” for his death. Weeks earlier, he had also reportedly accused Eshwarappa of harassing him for a 40% bribe on a completed contract worth Rs 4 crore.

Protesting Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) members continued to demand Eshwarappa’s immediate arrest.

According to Mangalore MLA UT Khader, Patil who was also a BJP worker had visited Delhi some months ago and made a complaint to the BJP leaders that he was being harassed. “He had even mentioned that if this doesn’t get resolved, he may be forced to commit suicide. And now he has,” said Khader, a four-time MLA from the Congress party.

He continued, “If it is a fair government, a common man and a minister should be treated equally in front of the law. If it was a common man, they would have booked him under Prevention of Corruption Act, and they would have taken all actions possible. But why is that action not being taken for a BJP minister? Why is there one law for the common man and another law for the ministers and the rich people?”

“Even 48 hours after the incident, there was no action taken by the BJP. If it was a member of the Congress party, the leadership would have sacked us within hours,” Khader claimed.

“In fact, now that he has resigned, they have projected it as if he has made a sacrifice for the party. They don’t care about the fact that the father of a child, the son of a mother and the husband of a wife has died. Why have they not even given compensation to the victim’s family? Former CM Yediyurappa has already declared the minister innocent, they have already given him the certificate, then what can people expect from the inquiry?”

“This is not the only incident,” Khader went on. “The Karnataka State Contractors Association had written a letter to the Prime Minister six months ago that there is a lot of corruption and we cannot do our work. Not even one letter has come from the PMO to the CM office to enquire what is going on. Why? From the Centre to the State, they are all on the same track.”

“We demand a judicial enquiry into this whole corruption scandal and Karnataka should be free of corruption. There are many contractors and government officials who can’t speak out and are afraid and stressed. This should come to an end.”

Khader demanded an impartial investigation. “Since the former CM has already said Eshwarappa will come out clean, I think the CBI or SIT should take an initiative for the inquiry. Only then will it be fair.”

He said that members of the state government and BJP were already issuing media exonerations.

“The BJP is defending this by saying the victim had done the work without any approval. We are asking on behalf of the people, how can any common man go and work on a government site without approval? Why would he put his money there?”

Workers of the Aam Aadmi Party in Karnataka had also joined the Congress in protesting against Eshwarappa outside chief minister Basavaraj Bommai’s residence.

According to reports Eshwarappa will skip the BJP’s ongoing executive meet in Hospet. He has not been removed from the party but said he would abide by its decisions. The two-day meet is being chaired by national president JP Nadda.

“There are several programmes relating to my grandson’s marriage that are on at our house, so I will not be going,” Eshwarappa told PTI.

He added that he plans to attend a BJP event in Bellary on April 19, to prepare for the assembly polls due by May next year. The party has 121 seats in a house of 224.