The multi-crore mining scam in Karnataka on Friday cost Congress minister Santosh Lad his job amid mounting pressure for his resignation ahead of the state legislature's session from Nov 25 at Belgaum.
Ending the day-long suspense and political drama, the 34-year-old mining baron, who was minister of state for infrastructure development, information and Kannada and culture departments finally submitted his resignation letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
"I have tendered my resignation to the chief minister in view of the allegations of illegal mining against me and my company and to avoid any embarrassment to our government," Lad told reporters later.
Lad's mining firm V.S. Lad & Sons was indicted by then Karnataka ombudsman (Lokayukta) Justice N. Santosh Hegde for illegally extracting and supplying about 10,000 tonnes of iron ore during 2008-10 from Sandur mines in Bellary district, about 330km from here.
Lad's firm is also being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on a Supreme Court directive after its appointed central empowered committee (CEC) classified it under 'C' category mining lessee and directed the state government to cancel its license for allegedly committing large scale illegal mining.
"Though there was no pressure from the CM or the party's high command, I have resigned because I don't want my party to be embarrassed further. I am open to investigations and am sure I will be proved innocent," Lad asserted.
Lad is the first minister to quit the six-month-old Congress government after the party returned to power following its victory in the state legislative assembly elections in May.
The resignation came after whistle-blower S.R. Hiremath of Samaja Parivartanan Samudayaa, an NGO, on whose petition the apex court ordered the CBI probe, recently met Governor H.R. Bhardwaj with documentary evidence to seek Lad's removal from the cabinet.
After the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmakers petitioned the governor with the same demand, Bhardwaj advised the chief minister to look into the matter.
The BJP and two other opposition parties -- Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) threatened to disrupt the state legislature session at Belguam, about 500 km from here in northern Karnataka, if Lad was not removed from the ministry.
The Lad family has been in mining business for decades and the controversy over Santosh Lad's alleged involvement in illegal mining has pitted him against his cousin Anil Lad, a Congress lawmaker from Bellary district.