BJP member and contractor Santhosh Patil, who had accused senior Karnataka minister KS Eshwarappa of asking for a bribe worth 40% of the total cost of a project, was found dead on Tuesday, April 12 in Udupi. Preliminary investigations suggested that the contractor took his life in a lodge close to the main bus stand in Udupi. Santhosh, who is from Hindalaga in Belagavi, had been missing since Monday, April 11, and police officials are investigating a message he purportedly sent his friends stating that Eshwarappa was ‘directly responsible’ for his death, and that the Minister should be punished. Apart from Eshwarappa, Santhosh had accused officials in the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) of corruption as well.
Santhosh was one of many contractors who had accused the BJP government in Karnataka of asking for exorbitant bribes from contractors and increasing corruption. Santhosh was the national secretary of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, and had spoken to TNM last month where he had revealed that Eshwarappa had allegedly not released payments for a project Santhosh had finished in 2019, and that due to this, he was being hounded by loan sharks.
“Because of the pandemic and other political reasons, the process kept getting delayed. I finished the project in 2019 but have not received a single penny for it yet. I have borrowed money heavily for it and am being hounded by loan sharks now,” Patil had said.
Eshwarappa had denied these allegations and claimed that he did not know Santhosh at all. He further sued Santhosh for defamation. Patil had countered this and said that he has photographs with Eshwarappa at the latter’s residence in Shivamogga and has met the minister on at least occasions to request the release of payment.
Patil had told TNM that there was no work order raised for the road work that he undertook in Hindalga as Eshwarappa had given him an oral assurance that he will personally take care of everything. “But neither the work order was raised, nor was the payment released. When I kept following up with Eshwarappa, some of his assistants asked me for 40% of the total project — almost Rs 4 crore — to have the total payment processed,” Patil had told TNM.
“I did not wait for a work order because Eshwarappa said he is the minister and the final authority on this. So, I started the project. After that, the Model Code of Conduct came into effect because of bye-elections in the district due to which, they said, they couldn’t give me the work order then. But Eshwarappa told me to not worry and continue with the work,” Patil had told TNM.
A day before his death, on Monday, Santhosh had sent a message to a friend saying that Eshwarappa “is directly responsible” for his death. The message read, “The sole reason for my death is Eshwarappa, Minister of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj. He should be punished accordingly. I have kept aside my dreams and taken this decision. My wife and son should get help from the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, and senior Lingayat leader Yediyurappa.” He added that RDPR Minister KS Eshwarappa should be punished.
He reportedly wrote in the message that he was taking a journey of “no return” after suppressing his own wants and desires. Adding that he had brought some friends with him by telling them that they were all going for a picnic on the evening of April 11 — which was also confirmed by his wife — Santhosh said that his friends should not be held responsible for his death.
The message purportedly sent by Santhosh on April 11, the day before his death
Read Pooja Prasanna’s earlier detailed report on the allegations of corruption in the Karnataka BJP made by Santhosh Patil and others - Voted BJP for change, now we pay 40% cut as bribe: Karnataka contractors are upset