The BJP Government in Karnataka suffered a severe blow with the resignation of Ramesh Jarkiholi, Minister for Water Resources in a day of fast-paced developments following the telecast of a widely viral video purportedly showing him getting intimate with an unidentified woman. The Minister was forced to resign from his post on Wednesday (March 3) regardless of his protestation of innocence. Ramesh, one among three brothers, all MLAs, was the one who played the key role in the defection of a bunch of Congress MLAs in August 2019 (leading to the fall of Congress-JDS coalition) belongs to a family of sugar barons from the Belgavi district. He represents the Gokak constituency. His brother Balachander Jarkiholi is also a BJP MLA, from Arabhavi. Another brother Satish Jarkiholi is Congress MLA from Yemankanmardi.
Said to be a ‘sex for job’ scandal, a complaint had been filed by a civil rights activist Dinesh Kalahalli in the city’s Cubbon Park Police Station. Dinesh had alleged that she and her relatives had approached him to file the complaint. The complaint said the Minister had sought a meeting with the woman in Karnataka Bhavan in Delhi. “I am a social activist and it is my responsibility to fight against abuse and injustice”, Dinesh said while approaching senior advocates. Jarkiholi had first denied the allegation telling that he did not know the woman and claimed that his reputation was sought to be besmirched through ‘a fake video’. His brother Balachander sought a CBI probe into the affair. Ramesh who met CM Yeddiyurappa twice during the day on Wednesday was prevailed upon to submit his resignation and was assured that the ministerial portfolio would be restored once he was cleared of the charges.
The scandal has broken at a time when north Karnataka is awaiting byelections for three Assembly seats and a Lok Sabha seat where BJP faces big challenge from the Congress, especially when the CM has gone back on his promise of reservation for Panchamsalis, a subsect within the dominant Lingayath community.
The Cubbon Park Police which received the CD has not registered a case so far and has called the complainant who has alleged that the Minister had promised a job to her in lieu of sexual favours. Meanwhile, Gokak town witnessed protests against the minister by the JDS as well as a rally by his supporters in the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) on Wednesday. The Morcha alleges that the minister has fallen victim to a calumnious campaign by his detractors.
Some within the party (BJP in this case) feel relieved at his exit as many were feeling that the legislature wing of the party had become a hostage in the hands of defectors headed by Ramesh Jarkiholi and the old loyalists were being deprived of their due at a time when the party is in power.
The complainant to the police had claimed that a girl who had approached the minister for a job was sexually abused by him after promising a job in the Karnataka Power Transmission Company Ltd (KPTCL). The girl had met the minister while making a documentary film. She hails from northern Karnataka. Complainant Dinesh Kalahalli is a rights activist with Nagarakia Hakku Horata Samithi (Committee for Struggle for Citizens’ Rights). It is alleged that the girl recorded the episode on a CD which was given to Kalahalli by the woman who came with the complaint. However, several Kannada TV channels had run the contents of the CD prior to the police complaint.
Many within the BJP believe that the scandal is an insider’s job in the party as some elements were scared of the growing clout of the MLA.