Bengaluru: The BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government in Karnataka was on Wednesday rocked by a sex-for-job scandal involving Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi who, after stout denials, resigned on "moral grounds."
"Allegations against me are far from the truth. Clear investigation is needed. I'll come out innocent and I'm confident about it. I'm resigning on moral grounds and I request you to accept this," Jarkiholi, a powerful minister from Belagavi and a sugar baron, said in his resignation letter addressed to the Chief Minister.
Initially Jarkiholi refused to quit, but it was the BJP high command that took a hard stand forcing the hands of the minister. BJP national general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Arun Singh is said to have communicated the party's decision to the state leadership, keeping in mind the upcoming assembly elections in five states and panchayat polls in Karnataka.
The allegation comes just ahead of the crucial budget session of the Assembly starting Thursday and has put the BJP government in a major spot. The scandal surfaced when a sex-for-job CD involving Jarkiholi was released to news channels by a social activist, Dinesh Kallahalli, who has also lodged a complaint with the police. He also met Bengaluru city police commissioner Kamal Pant and sought protection for the woman.
The CD contains video clips and pictures of Jarkiholi in a compromising position with a woman and an intimate audio conversation between the two, claimed Kallahalli.
“The victim, who hails from North Karnataka, met Jarkiholi recently as she was interested in producing a documentary on the dams of North Karnataka. Later, he promised her a job in Karnataka Power Transmission (KPTCL) and sexually exploited her. When Jarkiholi found that the victim had the CD, he started threatening her. I have come here on her behalf as she feared for her life,” Kallahalli told the media.
A livid Jarkiholi had said he was "shocked" to hear the allegations and the video was "100 percent fake". “I’m shocked and pained. The incident is part of a larger conspiracy against me. A third party... filing a complaint against me indicates it was being done at someone’s behest,” he said.
His brother and BJP MLA Balachandra Jarkiholi has sought a CBI probe into the matter and threatened to file a Rs 100 crore suit against those who released the "fake CD". "The woman who they claim has faced injustice, her identity is not known. Someone gives the complaint claiming her relatives insisted on it... taking that complaint itself is wrong because the person affected has to give the complaint, not someone on the street," Balachandra Jarkiholi said, defending his brother.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (central division) MN Anuchet was quoted in the media as saying: “We have received the complaint but since it has come from a third person, we are duty-bound to take statements from the woman and her family as there are certain guidelines while investigating such cases.”
Ramesh Jarkiholi, an MLA from Gokak, hails from Belagavi and comes from one of the most powerful political families in the state. He was one of the 17 defectors from Congress and JD(S) whose crossover resulted in the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy government in the state in 2019.
As the video and pictures went viral and news channels played up the story, Congress workers held protests in different parts of the state demanding Jarkiholi’s resignation. “Dear BJP, is this why your party members gave you the tag of Blackmail Janata Party?” Karnataka Congress tweeted from its official handle.