POLITICS

After Porn Surfing, Now Sex CD Claims Karnataka Minister's Scalp

What is it then with the moral fabric of the political class in Karnataka?

14/12/2016 6:04 PM IST | Updated 14/12/2016 6:58 PM IST
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Yet another wicket has fallen in the Karnataka government. Excise minister HY Meti resigned within 30 minutes of a CD that was released in New Delhi on Wednesday morning. The CD allegedly showed Meti in a compromising position with a woman, who had reportedly come to seek official help from the minister. What's worse, it is suspected that the recording was done inside his office in the Vidhana Soudha complex in Bengaluru.

But the controversy has not been without its twists and turns, making it very obvious that several lobbies with their own vested interests were at play. On Sunday, when an RTI activist blew the lid off this incident, the woman initially agreed that Meti had abused her. She subsequently denied anything of the sort happened, claiming the minister was like a father figure to her. The RTI activist released an audio file of a phone conversation with someone identified as the minister's gunman. In the recording, the gunman threatens the activist against releasing the CD and even offers monetary compensation, if he falls in line.

Two days later, the woman did a U-turn again, accusing Meti of seeking sexual favours. She subsequently got admitted to a hospital. A CID probe that has now been ordered will look into who is speaking the truth.

But the swift acceptance of the resignation is an indication that the Congress leadership in Karnataka knew Meti's game was up. Critics say that those who mattered knew of the existence of visual evidence and had conveyed to the 71-year-old minister that he would have to quit if it surfaced. With elections just 16 months away, the Congress can hardly afford the taint of a sex scandal.

This controversy comes close on the heels of the episode involving Tanveer Sait, Karnataka's Education minister in November. Sait was reportedly caught flipping through some images, that turned out to be those of Melania Trump, the US President-elect's wife, over Whatsapp. Sait refused to resign, claiming he was not at fault and had only opened a message he had received. It was also tough for Siddaramaiah to drop Sait given that he is a Muslim political heavyweight from the Mysuru region.

Strangely, sex and sleaze seems to be a recurring feature of governments in Karnataka, with lawmakers frequently turning to satisfying their carnal fantasies. The shoe is on the other foot now as the Congress in 2010 had gone for then Karnataka's food and civil supplies minister H Halappa. The BJP leader was forced to resign after it was alleged that he had sexually assaulted his friend's wife. Venkatesh Murthy, a resident of Shimoga reportedly recorded visuals of Halappa attempting to rape his wife when the minister stayed with the couple for a night during a visit to the district.

"Strangely, sex and sleaze seems to be a recurring feature of governments in Karnataka, with lawmakers frequently turning to satisfying their carnal fantasies."

Two years later, in February 2012, three BJP ministers in Sadananda Gowda's cabinet, were found surfing porn inside the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The BJP came under attack for the disgraceful conduct of the ministers, one of who was CC Patil holding the portfolio of women and child welfare. All three were forced to resign under pressure from both the opposition and the public.

While obviously the ministers have no business to porn-tificate, at least not in public, Meti's conduct is worse. If he has indeed sought sexual favours in return for getting a transfer done, it brings down the prestige of the office he holds in the Karnataka government.

The fact that he belongs to the same Kuruba community as chief minister Siddaramaiah could have been one reason to save his scalp. That he was given the marching orders as soon as the CD went public, showed his continuation in the cabinet was no longer tenable.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of Karnataka Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah.

What is it then with the moral fabric of the political class in Karnataka? In a system where there is a premium placed on morality, Meti is an embarrassment. The Congress has tried to limit the damage by getting rid of him as soon as possible.

Meti's act of bartering a sexual favour for agreeing to do the woman's bidding is not just reprehensible conduct, it also points to a larger problem. One of corruption in the administration. It is also a sad commentary on the number of black sheep among the political administrators in the state.

Meti's expose also comes at a time when the Congress government is on the back foot. The arrest of two senior bureaucrats this month with Rs 152 crore of unaccounted for cash, with Rs 5.7 crore in 2000 rupee currency notes, has embarrassed the Siddaramaiah dispensation. Both officers are seen to be politically well connected and efforts have been on to prevent collateral damage to the Congress party as the government had sat on Lokayukta's requests to prosecute one of the officials.

What has set the cat among the pigeons is Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa's claim a few days back that three heads will roll in the Congress very soon. If Meti is the first hit, BSY's boast will now be taken more seriously by the ruling dispensation.

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