Karnataka Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi on Wednesday resigned from the state cabinet, following allegations of sexual harassment against him.
His resignation came after protests and criticism by opposition parties and several sections of society, causing a huge embarrassment to the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
In his resignation letter to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa just ahead of the cabinet meeting this afternoon, Jarkiholi claimed he was innocent.
'The allegations against me are far from the truth. It has to be investigated at the earliest. Though I'm confident about my innocence, taking moral responsibility, I'm resigning from my position as the cabinet minister. I request you to accept it,' he said.
Social activist Dinesh Kallahalli had on Tuesday lodged a police complaint against Ramesh, alleging he had sexually harassed a 'job aspirant' and threatened the woman and her family with dire consequences.
Dubbing it as 'sex for job' scandal, purported video clips showing Ramesh Jarkiholi getting intimate with an unidentified woman was widely aired by Kannada news channels.
According to sources, Jarkiholi tendered his resignation on the directions from the party high command.
BJP national general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Arun Singh and party national General Secretary (organisation) B L Santosh reportedly held discussions on the charges and CD on Wednesday morning and communicated the party's decision to the state leadership, keeping in mind the assembly polls in five states and also bypolls and panchayat elections in Karnataka.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa then called party MLA from Arabhavi, Balachandra Jarkiholi, who is Ramesh's brother and informed him of the decision.
Reacting to the charges, Ramesh on Tuesday night had said he was shocked and the videos were '100 per cent fake'.
He had also sought a probe, while asserting that he would quit as Minister and also from politics if proven wrong.
Balachandra Jarkiholi had said after meeting the CM in the morning that there was no need for Ramesh to resign if he has not done anything wrong and a thorough probe has to be done, either by the CBI or CID, to find out the truth behind the allegation and the CD, also those behind it.
Terming it as an attempt to defame the family as they have made it big in politics, Balachandra also threatened to file a Rs 100 crore defamation suit against those who released the 'fake CD'.
According to sources, Yediyurappa reportedly assured Jarkiholi that he would be inducted to the Cabinet again if he was cleared of the charges levelled against him.
There were also reports he was promised that Balachandra Jarkiholi would be inducted in his place.
However, clarifying that there were no conditions put before the resignation was tendered, Balachandra Jarkiholi said the CM sent the resignation to the Governor, a probe would take place and Ramesh would come out innocent.
Asked if he had been assured of a ministerial berth, he said, 'no nothing like that... let's see later'.
The allegation, just ahead of the Budget session of the state legislature starting from Thursday has come as a huge embarrassment to the B S Yediyurappa-led BJP government.
The opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular also demanded his immediate resignation and both parties staged demonstrations on Wednesday at various places, including Belagavi, which is Jarkiholi's home district.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah had earlier in the day said, "If that party (BJP) has an iota of shame and if they respect human values, they have to seek his resignation immediately.
"This is national news. If the government has shame, it has to take his resignation and FIR has to be registered immediately."
Police had said necessary action would be taken after obtaining more details and that they would also question the woman.
Asked about the probe, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said on Wednesday that police, based on whatever complaint has been given, are conducting inquiries as per law.
Meanwhile, Police said they have summoned Kallahalli to appear before them on Thursday as part of the investigation.
The activist has been asked to depose before the Investigating Officer at the Cubbon Park police station, where he had lodged the complaint against the former minister.
Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan said it was not right to comment on the issue without knowing the facts, and the charge may have been levelled out of malice.
According to reports, the Chief Minister noted during the cabinet meet that the allegation against Jarkiholi has caused huge embarrassment to the government.
But Bommai told reporters during the briefing that the issue did not come up for discussion as Jarkiholi had resigned.
Asked whether any decision had been taken on the inquiry, he said, 'none has been taken at the government level. A complaint has been registered and police are probing it'.
Ramesh Jarkiholi, a MLA from Gokak, who was earlier with Congress, was among the chief architects in causing the downfall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government that eventually paved the way for the BJP to come to power.
As the news about the resignation spread, his supporters swarmed Basaveshwara circle in Gokak and staged demonstrations by burning tyres and raising slogans, holding aloft his photograph.
According to sources, shops and establishments were forcefully shut in parts of the town as a mark of protest.
One man doused petrol on his body during the protest and tried to set himself ablaze, but policemen prevented him from doing so and took him into custody.
Kallahalli told PTI that some people were following him and he apprehended a threat to his life.
He said he has lodged a complaint in this regard with the Kanakapura Rural police in Ramanagara district.