Karnataka minister resigns over sexual assault allegations


Bangalore : Karnataka’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister Haratalu Halappa resigned Sunday following a newspaper report that indicated he had allegedly tried to sexually assault his friend’s wife in his home district of Shimoga.

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The Kannada daily did not name Halappa but referred to “a minister close to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa”. The report also did not mention when the alleged incident took place.

Just hours after the daily carrying the news item on the front page hit the stands, Halappa told reporters that the “allegations are baseless but I have resigned to uphold the image of the party”.

He said he had faxed his resignation letter to the chief minister who was out of Bangalore.

“I have informed over telephone our state party president K.S. Eshwarappa of my decision to resign,” Halappa said.

“It is a conspiracy against me. Truth will come out after a probe,” he added.

He said he suspected the hand of legislators of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) behind the conspiracy. But he refused to take any names.

Yeddyurappa, though born in Mandya district, about 80 kms from here, has made Shimoga his political home. He accepted Halappa’s resignation and forwarded it to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, his spokesperson said.

According to the daily, the minister invited himself to a friend’s house in Shimoga, about 270 km from here, for dinner after which he complained of chest pain and sent his friend out to get medicines.

When the friend returned he was shocked to see a half-naked minister while the wife was crying. The wife told him of attempt to assault her, following which the minister was thrashed by the friend.

The newspaper said the alleged incident took place sometime back but came to light now. It added that the woman and her husband have not lodged a police complaint or gone public with the incident following threats from the minister.

Asked why he was resigning as the report did not mention his name and whether this meant admission of guilt, Halappa told reporters he had heard that a party legislator told his friends that the food and civil supplies minister would quit.

While state party chief Eshwarappa welcomed Halappa’s decision to resign to uphold the party image and high public standards, opposition Congress demanded that he be arrested and that criminal proceedings be initiated.

State Congress chief R.V. Deshapande told reporters that Yeddyurappa too must quit. Eshwarappa dismissed the Congress demands and said he was with Halappa in his efforts to ascertain the truth.

Halappa shot to fame as he defeated former chief minister S. Bangarappa’s sons Madhu and Kumar Bangarappa in Shimoga’s Sorab constituency in the May 2008 assembly polls. While Kumar Bangarappa contested on Congress ticket, Madhu fought as a Samajwadi Party candidate.

This is the second sex scandal to rock the BJP, which came to power in May 2008.

The earlier sex scam involved M.P. Renukacharya, a BJP legislator from Honnali in Davangere district, about 200 km from here, and a nurse Jayalakshmi.

Jayalakshmi had attempted suicide alleging Renukacharya was harassing her. She had exhibited photos of the two hugging and kissing and claimed the pictures were taken forcibly.

She had also filed cases against Renukacharya. However, Renukacharaya managed to become a minister as he had joined last year’s rebellion against Yeddyurappa led by mining barons and ministers G. Janardhana Reddy and his brother G. Karunakara Reddy.

Renukacharya, who holds the excise portfolio, and Jayalakshmi have now reached a compromise and pending cases would be withdrawn.