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Sex CD shakes up poll-bound BJP, BSY govt, minister Ramesh Jarkiholi quits

AN INFLUENTIAL MINISTER in the BJP government Ramesh Jarkiholi submitted his resignation to Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Wednesday, a day after a video CD allegedly involving him and a young unidentified woman was played by local television channels.

Dinesh Kalahalli, a social activist, who claimed to have been authorised by the woman’s family, had later filed a complaint with the Bengaluru police alleging coercion and “sexual harassment” by Jarkiholi.

On Wednesday, Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi denied any wrongdoing. Although he was initially adamant he wouldn’t quit, he submitted his resignation later on “moral grounds” through his brother and BJP MLA Balachandra Jarkiholi.

“The allegations against me are far from the truth. An investigation is needed to prove the truth. Though I have the faith of being proven innocent I am submitting my resignation on moral grounds. Please accept my resignation,” Jarkiholi stated in his resignation letter.

The resignation came in the wake of pressure from the BJP at the Centre as well as the state following fear the allegations will embarrass the party ahead of polls to four states and a Union Territory, to be held in April-May.

Chief Minister Yediyurappa and BJP leaders refused to comment on the issue. Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said “police will investigate” the allegations brought against the minister through a third party.

“It is a conspiracy. It is a fake video. Let an investigation be conducted. I will resign and quit politics if allegations are proven.

Don’t know this person or who she is,” he claimed earlier on Wednesday.

The resignation of Jarkiholi over the alleged sex CD is likely to have far reaching political consequences in Karnataka since there is speculation of the existence of similar CDs involving several other top leaders, sources in the government said.

The Jarkiholis are a group of four brothers from the Belagavi region of north Karnataka who command considerable political clout across constituencies in the region. Two brothers — Ramesh and Balachandra — are in the BJP while two others Satish — a former minister and Lakhan (who lost to Ramesh in a 2019 bypoll) — are in the Congress.

Following the exit of Ramesh, the Jarkiholi brothers are likely to lobby for a ministerial post for Balachandra Jarkiholi who lost out on a Cabinet position in 2019-20. The brothers have constantly ensured one of them finds a berth in the BJP, Congress or JDS governments.

The BJP will need the support of the brothers — known as the Sahukars (rich lords) — to win a bypoll to the Belagavi Lok Sabha seat that is scheduled to be announced soon.

Ramesh Jarkiholi, 60, is a powerful scheduled tribe leader who wielded power in the BJP despite joining the party only in 2019. He played a key role in the defection of 13 Congress MLAs to help the BJP and Yediyurappa topple the Congress-JDS coalition in the state.

He is a six time MLA and a former Congress minister and was earlier considered to be close to former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Since joining the BJP, Jarkiholi — whose politics was earlier restricted to the fight for control of the Belagavi region — had begun positioning himself as a state-wide leader of the sizable Valmiki Nayak scheduled tribe community at the cost of the BJP’s B Sreeramulu.

He was a part of recent Valmiki Nayak protests to seek an increase of reservations for the community from three percent to 7.5 percent. He also enjoys a close business association with the former Maharashtra BJP CM Devendra Fadnavis on account of interest in the sugar business on the Karnataka Maharashtra borders.

Jarkiholi was seen as an alternate power centre in the Karnataka BJP on account of a bunch of 17 defectors and other unhappy BJP MLAs often seeking out his company to assert pressure on chief minister Yediyurappa for favors like ministerial positions. He was also often seen meeting BJP central leaders creating the impression of high reach in the party.

Ramesh Jarkiholi was the only new entrant to the BJP from the bunch of 17 Congress and JDS defectors of 2019 who got the ministerial portfolio of his choice — water resources. He is reported to have insisted on the portfolio since it was held earlier by bete noire and bitter rival D K Shivakumar, the current state Congress chief.

Jarkiholi was initially tipped to be a Deputy CM along with three others who are Deputy CMs to Yediyurappa, but was given the plum water resources ministry instead.

He is also believed to have played a key role in getting C P Yogeshwar, an MLC, a berth in the state Cabinet in January despite resistance in the BJP since he had lost the 2018 Assembly elections from the Channapatna constituency.

The selection of Yogeshwar as a minister despite deep resentment in the BJP ranks was seen as an attempt by the BJP and Jarkiholi to counter Shivakumar and the JDS chief H D Kumaraswamy in the Vokkaliga belt in south Karnataka.

Before he joined the BJP in 2019, Jarkiholi had come under the scanner of the Income Tax department in 2017 for loans worth over Rs 500 crore given by co-operative banks in Belagavi and south Karnataka to sugar firms run by him and his then close associate Lakshmi Hebbalkar of the Congress party — as being possible money laundering transactions.

Both Hebbalkar and Jarkiholi were at the time associates of Congress leader Shivakumar, but Jarkiholi subsequently fell out with Shivakumar and Hebbalkar over control of Belagavi. He has been engaged in a bitter personal battle with the Congress duo since the fallout.

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