Karnataka minister steps down after accusations of sexual exploitation
Ramesh Jarkiholi, who served as Karnataka’s water resources minister in the B.S.Yediyurappa-led government, on Wednesday resigned from the cabinet a day after allegations of sexual exploitation surfaced against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Gokak in Belagavi district.
In his resignation letter, which was shared by the chief minister’s office, Jarkiholi stated that the allegations against him are “far from the truth”.
“There should be an investigation into this. Even though I am innocent, I am taking moral responsibility and resigning from the cabinet,” Jarkiholi said in the letter, written in Kannada.
Jarkiholi’s resignation comes a day before the commencement of the month-long budget session in Karnataka. His resignation is expected to help Yediyurappa avoid the issue in the legislature, the incident has given ammunition to the opposition to attack Jarkiholi who was one of the main players in the defection drama that led to the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular) -Congress coalition government in 2019.
“It is disgusting to watch. Such people (Ramesh) are ministers in Yediyurappa’s council of ministers. His brother (Balachandra) has threatened Yediyurappa that he will release a CD against the chief minister if they ask for his brother’s (Ramesh) resignation. Should such people remain in power,” Siddaramaiah, the Congress’ leader of the opposition said, while addressing a gathering as part of the party’s Padayatra near Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Jarkiholi was dropped from the Kumaraswamy government over non-performance in 2018. He is one of five powerful Jarkiholi brothers who wield significant influence in the border district of Belagavi, about 508 km from Bengaluru. Dinesh Kalahalli, a social activist, filed a police complaint on Tuesday in Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park station. An unverified video of a person resembling the minister with an unnamed woman has gone viral with TV news channels in Karnataka playing the incident on loop. Also doing the rounds is an alleged phone call between the two, in which the person believed to be the minister is making corruption allegations against the CM.
Hindustan Times could not independently verify the contents of the video or the call.
Over the last decade, successive governments in Karnataka have been left red-faced over the surfacing of sex-scandals. Hartal Halappa, the food and civil supplies minister in the Yediyurappa-led BJP government in 2010, was forced to resign after allegations of rape. Two years later, two ministers—Laxman Savadhi and CC Patil—of the D.V.Sadananda Gowda-led BJP government were caught watching porn on their mobile phones during assembly proceedings. Savadhi is currently one of three deputy chief ministers of Karnataka while Patil is the minister for small-scale industries. In 2016, HY Meti, then excise minister in the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, was forced to resign after a video of him allegedly seeking sexual favours from a woman surfaced. More recently, Congress MLC Prakash Rathod was caught watching porn during proceedings.
“Whatever the complaint is there (against Jarkiholi), based on the complaint we are doing the inquiry as per the law,” Basavaraj Bommai, state’s home, law and parliamentary minister said in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Kalahalli, in his complaint on Tuesday, alleged that Jarkiholi sexually exploited the woman in the guise of helping her land a government job at Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL).
Ramesh Jarkiholi could not be reached for comment.
Jarkiholi, on Tuesday night, told TV reporters that the video was fake and the incident was a political conspiracy. “The identity of this woman is unknown and the complaint has been lodged by some random person. Taking this complaint itself if wrong. I have requested the CM to give the case to the CBI or COD (CID),” Balachandra Jarkiholi, Ramesh’s brother and BJP MLA told reporters on Wednesday after meeting Yediyurappa.
Already under pressure for non-performance, internal fighting and the state’s parlous financial situation, the incident has added to the troubles of the Yediyurappa-led government that has two years before it faces elections in 2023. Jarkiholi, who was among the first to defect to the BJP in 2019, helped engineer defections from the coalition government. He is also the district in-charge minister for Belagavi and hoped to be made deputy CM for his role in helping Yediyurappa to power.