Bangalore: Karnataka Medical Education Minister Ramachandra Gowda Sunday quit over alleged irregularities in the recruitment of over 350 non-medical staff to two government run-colleges and hospitals.
"As per your wish, I am resigning. Thank you for your cooperation all these days," Gowda said in the two-line letter in Kannada he sent to Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa in the early hours of Sunday.
Gowda told reporters that he has quit "as per the directions of the chief minister".
Yeddyurappa, after telling Gowda to quit, left for China to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Shanghai. "I do not want to comment on the issue. I will do so on return on September 15," he told reporters before leaving for China late Saturday.
Yeddyurappa had on August 26 cancelled the appointments to Hassan and Mysore Medical Colleges and hospitals after a probe by the Medical Education Department Secretary IM Vittala Murthy confirmed irregularities.
But Gowda maintained on Sunday that everything was in order.
"Even now I say there are no irregularities in it. The matter is before the court, I will await the court verdict," he asserted.
Gowda is the third minister of the first Bharatiaya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka and south India to quit in the last two years over a controversy.
The first was SN Krishnaiah Shetty, who was Muzrai (religious endowment) minister. He resigned following allegations of involvement in land purchase and sale to state-run Karnataka Housing Board.
Haratalu Halappa quit as food and civil supplies minister after he was accused of raping his friend`s wife.
Gowda was under pressure to quit after Yeddyurappa cancelled the appointments of lab technicians, nurses and other non-medical staff.
With Gowda maintaining there were no irregularities, the chief minister has instituted another probe by state Additional Chief Secretary Abhijit Dasgupta.
The sacked employees have been on protest since August 26 and several of them have filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court challenging their retrenchment.
The court had pulled up Gowda over the issue and expressed displeasure over his reply to its notice seeking detailed information on the recruitment process.
Gowda`s decision to quit was hailed by state BJP chief KS Eshwarappa. "He has taken the right decision in the interest of the party," he told reporters in Shimoga.
Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) said Gowda`s resignation was overdue. Congress spokesperson VS Ugrappa demanded that a criminal case be filed against Gowda, saying his resignation only confirms irregularities in the appointments.