Under pressure, Lad finally steps down
By Express News Service | Published: 23rd November 2013 11:39 AM |
The six-month-old Congress government suffered its first casualty on Friday when Information and Infrastructure Development Minister Santosh Lad reluctantly walked out of the ministry.
Under severe pressure from Opposition parties and anti-corruption crusader S R Hiremath, Lad announced his resignation on Friday evening.
Lad met Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dr G Parameshwara, and headed for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s house, where he put in his papers.
Speaking to reporters, a dejected Lad said he had taken the step to prevent any embarrassment “to the government and the party ahead of the Legislature Session”.
He claimed both Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara were taken by surprise when he informed them of his decision. “They consoled me,” he said.
He said he was fighting a legal battle in the Supreme Court, seeking change of category of his mining company V S Lad and Sons. It is now bracketed in the ‘C’ category and banned from taking up any mining.
“I felt it was not advisable to continue in the Cabinet at this stage,” he said.
His move disarms the BJP and the JD(S), both of which had been ready to embarrass the Siddaramaiah government during the Assembly session beginning Monday.
Siddaramaiah, who had stood by Lad all these days, had challenged Hiremath of the Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya to submit substantive evidence against the minister.
The delay in getting Lad to quit had set tongues wagging about the party having used his money for fighting the Assembly elections in May.
According to sources close to the Chief Minister, Governor H R Bhardwaj’s advice had clinched the argument against Lad.
A legal expert, Bhardwaj had studied the documents submitted by Hiremath and said the case against Lad was strong.
Bhardwaj had advised Siddaramaiah to act against Lad to save the dignity of the Chief Minister’s office. Siddaramaiah admitted on Friday morning that he had indeed received two letters from the Governor in this regard. On Wednesday, two former chief ministers from the BJP — D V
Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar — had met
Bhardwaj and submitted a memorandum, seeking Lad’s resignation.
According to party sources, the Lad question had cropped up when Siddaramaiah, Parameshwara and Lad had met AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi recently.
Party sources told Express Gandhi had expressed his reservations about the continuation of Lad in the ministry as his company had links with VSL Mining Company, being investigated by the CBI for illegal mining.
Lad’s proximity to Siddaramaiah and his generous funding of the campaign for the May 5 Assembly elections had reportedly prompted the Chief Minister to drag his feet.
Lad’s inclusion in the ministry had run into dissent even within the party. Anil Lad, a relative of Santosh and a Congress MLA, had questioned the inclusion. Anil Lad, also facing illegal mining charges, was upset when his own name had been left out.