BENGALURU/BALLARI: Four days after two persons died when a speeding maroon Mercedes car crashed on National Highway 50 between Hampi and Bengaluru, there is still no clarity whether revenue minister R Ashoka’s son Sharath was in the car or driving it.
After maintaining a studied silence for two days, Ashoka on Thursday flip-flopped about Sharath’s presence in the car. Early Thursday morning, Ashoka is reported to have told a Kannada news channel over phone that his son was in the rear seat of the car that crashed, adding he will wait for the police investigation to bring out the truth. The channel ran a breaking-news ticker with the minister’s admission.
Soon, Ashoka retracted his statement and insisted his son was not in the car. A visibly hassled minister told the reporters: “The law is equal for all. As a minister, I don’t want to influence anything. My son’s name is not in the FIR. There is no connection between my son and the car that met with an accident in Ballari.”
Ashoka evaded a direct reply when asked specifically whether his son was present in the car. “I don’t want to say anything about it (son or the accident) since an investigation is being carried out by police. Let the investigation reveal the truth.”
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He was equally unwilling to reveal his son’s whereabouts on Monday afternoon when the accident occurred in Ballari.
Police officials said the Mercedes — KA-05-MW-0357 — is registered in the name of National Public School (NPS), Banashankari, Bengaluru, which is apparently owned or managed by Ashoka.
This is one of the six NPS schools developed on a consultancy model by the reputed school chain in the city.
According to police sources, Ashoka’s son Sharath and his friends in two cars — Mercedes Benz and Audi Q7 — had been to a resort near Hampi to celebrate the birthday of one of their friends. It is said the accident occurred on their way back to Bengaluru.
The car that crashed had five occupants. The FIR names Rahul as the driver of the car and Rakesh, Shivakumar and Varun as the other passengers.
Ravi Naik, a construction worker from Mandya, who was sipping tea at a roadside stall, was killed on the spot as the car hit and dragged him for about 100 metres. Sachin, said to be a friend of Sharath and sitting in the seat beside the driver, succumbed to injuries.
It is alleged that the policemen who went to record the case left out the name of the minister’s son from the investigation while naming all his friends. Sharath, it is further alleged, was sent in a SUV to Bengaluru where he is said have been treated for injuries.
Police officials denied Sharath was involved in the accident. Ballari superintendent of police CK Baba said there was no negligence or dereliction of duty by the police in the case. Ashoka’s son was not in that car, he added.
On Thursday, the Congress released what it said a photograph of Sharath being taken in a SUV soon after the accident. Home minister Basavaraj Bommai said he would get the details and then react on the accident on Friday. “There are two deaths in the accident. One pedestrian and a boy in the car have lost their lives. Local people shifted them to a hospital and an FIR was booked the same day. I have no idea whether the revenue minister’s son was in the car,” he added.
Ashoka served as the deputy chief minister and home minister in the previous BJP government from 2008 to 2013. He is a prominent Vokkaliga leader representing Padmanabanagar constituency in Bengaluru south.