"This is the most corrupt government in the country," Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar said.
Senior Karnataka Congress leaders DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah were detained today during a protest march demanding the arrest of state Minister KS Eshwarappa who has refused to resign amid a massive controversy over his alleged role in the suicide of a contractor. Mr Eshwarappa, the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, is named "Accused no.1" in a police case by the contractor's family.
Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, who was part of the protest, was also detained.
The Congress leaders were leading a march towards Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai's residence when they were stopped and detained by the police.
"We want the law of the land to be respected. This is the most corrupt government in the country. They are trying to safeguard the minister. Even the police are not taking action. Myself, Siddaramaiah and Randeep Singh Surjewala met the contractor's wife. She herself told us that the minister demanded 40% cut money," Mr Shivakumar, who is the Karnataka Congress president, told NDTV.
On the minister's charge that he did not give written order to the contractor, Mr Shivakumar added, "The Panchayat chairman has himself admitted. There is evidence of work done by the contractor," he added.
Civil contractor Santosh Patil, 41, who allegedly died by suicide on Tuesday, has accused Mr Eshwarappa, the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, of asking for "40% cut money" to settle payment for work completed by him.
Amid growing calls for his resignation, the BJP leader called a press meet to announce that he is staying put. "If they are asking for my resignation, I won't give one," he asserted.
In his defence, Mr Eshwarappa questioned how messages on WhatsApp could be treated like suicide notes - no actual note was found near the body.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai today also ruled out any action against the minister until preliminary inquiry is completed. "There is no interference of (BJP) high command on this issue, they have only obtained information, they don't have any role in it. As I have said the first time itself, action will be taken based on the preliminary inquiry, let the preliminary inquiry happen," Mr Bommai said in response to a question regarding the BJP high command's decision on Eshwarappa's future as Minister.
Santosh Patil was also reportedly given the work order orally by the Minister to construct roads in rural areas. The cost of the project was around ₹ 4 crore, and he had borrowed heavily - he had even sold his wife's jewellery - to complete the project.
But 18 months later, he had received not a single rupee. In his last messages, he requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to take care of his wife and nine-month-old boy.
For the BJP, it is a politically damaging case, given that Santosh Patil had reportedly even written to PM Modi and Mr Bommai complaining about the "40 % cut money" allegedly demanded by the minister and his associates.
The opposition Congress has demanded not just the minister's resignation but also his arrest over the suicide. Congress leaders took the demands to the Governor.
"It was murder, not suicide. If the BJP has any shame, they will immediately arrest the minister," Mr Shivakumar said.