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Karnataka Minister Resigns; Faces Rape Charge

The BJP Government in Karnataka was hit by a sex scandal when a minister resigned following an allegation of rape made by the wife of his friend.  Food and Civil Supplies Minister Harathalu Halappa quit
PTI May 03, 2010 10:20 IST
PTI
The BJP Government in Karnataka was hit by a sex scandal when a minister resigned following an allegation of rape made by the wife of his friend. 

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Harathalu Halappa quit after a leading Kannada daily published a front-page report alleging he sexually assaulted the wife of a social worker. 

Within hours of Halappa's exit, the woman and her husband from Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa's home district Shimoga lodged a complaint of rape and criminal intimidation against him with DGP Ajai Kumar Singh tonight. 

After filing the complaint at the DGP's residence, the woman's husband Venkatesh Murthy said the police chief assured that an inquiry would be conducted. 

"He (Halappa) has done a bad thing. He should be punished. It (the entire episode) should not become an entertainment for the people," Murthy said while his wife alleged that Halappa had threatened to kidnap their children. 

Murthy also alleged Halappa held out a threat to their life and added they did not file the complaint in Shimoga as they feared it might be "dumped" due to "political pressure". 

Earlier, Halappa rubbished the media report, dubbing it "baseless and untrue" and saw a political conspiracy by opponents, including some from his own ruling party, behind the alleged incident four months ago. 

"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 he had accepted the resignation, adding the minister insisted on quitting to not allow the opposition parties to "capitalise" on the report ahead of the Panchayat elections on May eight and May 12. 

Yeddyurappa described the media report to journalists in Belgaum as a political conspiracy and virtually gave a clean chit to Halappa saying he was 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." 

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 report claimed, 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 that on his return after not finding any security personnel, the friend saw his wife sobbing and alleging that she had been "sexually assaulted". 

The opposition Congress demanded the resignation of Chief Minister and the arrest of Halappa. 

President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee R V Deshpande, who chaired an emergent meeting, sought a CBI probe into the alleged episode. 

Yeddyurappa said Transport Minister R Ashoka would hold additional charge of the department of Food and Civil Supplies.

Later tonight, Yeddyurappa dismissed the opposition demand for his resignation. 

The chief minister told reporters in Hubli that he would meet Halappa tomorrow in Bangalore. 

Yeddyurappa said Governor H R Bharadwaj has accepted the resignation of Halappa. 

He said the Global Investors Meet would be held in Bangalore in the first week of next month. PTI