Karnataka minister quits over sleaze tape; probe ordered

Bengaluru, Dec 14 (IANS) In an embarrassment to the ruling Congress, Karnataka’s 71-year-old Excise Minister H.Y. Meti resigned on Wednesday after a sleaze tape allegedly showing him in a compromising situation with a woman surfaced. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah ordered a CID probe into the episode.

“Meti voluntarily submitted the resignation to me. I have recommended to the Governor (Vajubhai Vala) to accept it. I have entrusted the episode to the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) for inquiry,” Siddaramaiah told reporters here.

Raj Bhavan sources said Vala has accepted Meti’s resignation.

Earlier in the day, high drama prevailed at the Chief Minister’s official residence when an unnerved Meti rushed to tender his resignation to Siddaramaiah within an hour after local news channels began airing the compact disc footage.

An official from the Chief Minister’s Office told IANS that Siddaramaiah flared on seeing Meti and gave him a tongue-lashing in the presence of officials for bringing disrepute to the Congress and the government by his misconduct.

Walking out of the Chief Minister’s residence, a defiant Meti, however, denied indulging in any obscene activity and claimed he resigned from the ministry to avoid embarrassment to the ruling party and the Siddaramaiah government.

He alleged there was a conspiracy to tarnish his image through a “fake” sleaze tape.

“I have resigned but I am innocent. An official investigation will prove my innocence,” Meti told the media.

Meti is allegedly seen in a compromising situation with a young woman in the around four-minute footage aired so far.

“As for the location, when the CD was shot and by whom is not known; the inquiry will bring out the facts,” the official said.

Meti is a lawmaker of the Congress from Bagalkot district, about 410 km from here, and belongs to the Kurba (shephard) community. Siddaramaiah also belongs to that community.

Meti was one of the 13 ministers inducted into the three-year-old Congress government on June 19 in a major reshuffle when 14 others were sacked to make place for them.

According to party sources, Rajashekar Mulali, a Right to Information activist from Bellari district, about 330 km from here, claimed having in his possession audio-video evidence on CD of Meti seeking sexual favours from a woman who approached him for a government job.

Mulali said he released the CD in New Delhi, where he went to meet the Congress high command but could not as Parliament is in session.

“I wanted to hand over the CD to party leaders and seek action against Meti, as some of his followers had threatened me in case I released the sex tape,” Mulali told reporters in Delhi.

Denying the charge, Meti said he did not know the activist and none of his supporters threatened him.