Bengaluru, Mar 03, 2021: The ruling BJP in Karnataka found itself mired in a controversy Tuesday with a video CD allegedly featuring Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi and a young unidentified woman, and audio conversations between the two, being played on television channels.
A social activist, Dinesh Kalahalli, who claimed he was authorised by the woman’s family, later filed a complaint with the Cubbon Park police in Bengaluru alleging that the woman in the video clips was enticed by the minister with the offer of a government job.
The police are yet to register a formal case and are verifying the legitimacy of the complaint, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) M N Anucheth said.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa held a meeting with party colleagues, and sources in the government said a decision on seeking Jarkiholi’s resignation will be taken after hearing him out. “Party leaders will decide on the issue,” said Primary Education Minister Suresh Kumar.
While BJP leaders have not reacted on the issue, Jarkiholi himself remained incommunicado. His phone was switched off.
Jarkiholi, 60, is a powerful minister from the Belagavi region of north Karnataka in the Yediyurappa-led BJP government. A bitter personal feud with current state Congress President D K Shivakumar — both were associates earlier — over control of the Belagavi region is believed to be the reason behind the collapse of the Congress-JDS coalition in 2019.
He played a key role in engineering defections of 17 Congress and JDS MLAs to the BJP in 2019. This had helped the BJP topple the Congress-JDS coalition government and come to power in July 2019.
Since then, he has been a central rallying point for MLAs who are new entrants to the BJP and other rebels. He has also been at the forefront of a campaign to seek an increase in quota for his ST Valmiki Nayak community in the state.
Jarkiholi is among four brothers who are active in Karnataka politics from the Belagavi region and is known to nurse an ambition to become chief minister.
The CD featuring Ramesh Jarkiholi has come ahead of the announcement of bypolls to the Belagavi Lok Sabha seat which fell vacant last year following the death from Covid-19 of Suresh Angadi, the then Minister of State for Railways in the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.
Following the emergence of the alleged sex CD on Tuesday, youth Congress workers staged protests in different parts of the state demanding Jarkiholi’s resignation.
The BJP is wary of the CD issue disrupting a budget session of the state legislature which is scheduled to commence on March 4.
In 2016, a senior minister in the then Congress government in Karnataka led by then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah resigned in the wake of a purported video clip of the minister with a woman who approached him for an official favour.
H Y Meti, then 71, was the Minister for Excise and was considered to be a close associate of Siddaramaiah. An RTI activist from Bellary had released the CD of the minister with a woman.In 2019, a BJP MLA had filed a complaint of being a victim of a gang involved in setting up honey traps. Investigations by the crime branch in Bengaluru on the basis of the complaint filed by the 49-year-old BJP MLA — who obtained a restraining order from the Karnataka high court and a civil court against being identified in the media — also revealed that the gang targeted at least 12 other prominent persons including politicians and officials.