The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka received a jolt on Sunday when a minister from Chief Minister's home district of Shimoga quit following a media report which alleged that he sexually assaulted a friend's wife.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Harathalu Halappa 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 8 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".