Karnataka Assembly, Karnataka politics, Karnataka, sleazy CDs, audio tapes, leaked tapes, corruption, sex scandals, BJP, Congress, JD(S)
Assembly polls in Karnataka will be held in a single phase on May 10 and the results will be declared on May 13

Karnataka: Where sleazy CDs and sting ops have become a political tool

With Assembly elections in Karnataka likely to be held in April-May, the spectre of a surfeit of ‘secretly recorded’ audio or video tapes surfacing in the public domain is looming large. As it is, Karnataka has had a long history of such sting operations aimed at leaders cutting across parties.

The situation only seems to have worsened in recent years. While earlier such sting operations were aimed at exposing corruption, nowadays, the content has become salacious with focus more on personal lives and illicit relations.

According to sources, powerful politicians now have their own ‘digital teams’, specially hired to peek into rivals’ personal life. The team members strike friendships with those close to the targeted leader and use spy cameras to ‘incriminate them’.

According to a police officer, a few politicians even go to the extent of sending women to the rival politician in the guise of requesting jobs, etc., and set a ‘honey trap’. Sources say that reportedly in some recent cases of ‘sex tapes’, Rs 4-40 crore were spent to victimise the targeted person.

Incidents in past

The politics of CDs in the state has a history since 1983. In the beginning, there were audio tapes. The infamous ‘Veerappa Moily audiotape’ incident took place during Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde’s government. Janata Party MLA C Byre Gowda released an audio, wherein Moily had allegedly asked Gowda to join the Congress with his supporters, reportedly for Rs 2 lakh.

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In 2001, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief VS Koujalalagi faced an allegation through a video cassette of accepting a huge bribe from a contractor. It almost ended the political career of Kaoujalgi.

Even JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy (in 2014) was accused of seeking Rs 40 crore from one Vijayagouda Patil of Bijapur. Kumaraswamy reacted to this by saying that this was the bitter truth of present-day politics. He also said that he had CDs of former minister Janardhan Reddy on corruption, but he would not release them. Notably, in 2006, Janardhan Reddy had alleged that Kumaraswamy had asked for a bribe of Rs 140 crore bribe from him in connection with the alleged mining scams. He had released a CD in Bellary but no evidence was found.

Sex tapes

The CD politics took a turn for the worse after former BJP minister Ramesh Jarkiholi was made to resign from the BS Yediyurappa cabinet in 2021 for allegedly being involved in a sex scandal. He was allegedly caught in a compromising position in a video which went viral on social media. The BJP alleged that KPCC chief DK Shivakumar (DKS) was involved in the “Jarkiholi’s CD”.

Jarkiholi was accused by the girl of abusing her sexually in exchange for a job. After an investigation, police gave Jarkiholi a clean chit, but the incident embarrassed the BJP government.

Recently, Jarkiholi threatened in a press meeting to release an audio clip of DKS. He said there were more audio and video CDs of DKS, which he would produce before any agency if the government orders a probe against the Congress leader. The recent arrest of rape accused ‘Santro Ravi’ also put a spotlight on this issue. Santro Ravi is said to have links with various politicians and he allegedly has videos of few politicians, which have been accessed by some opposition leaders.

Observers opine that Jarkiholi made the statement as the elections were nearing and he therefore wanted to stop any damage to a few leaders by these opposition leaders.

This type of salacious CD politics started when a minister in BS Yediyurappa’s cabinet, Haratalu Halappa, was forced to resign in 2010 when his ‘CD’ was released by ‘unnamed’ opposition leaders. BJP leaders like M Renukacharya (2012) and Ramdas (2014) too faced trouble with similar kinds of CDs and images.

Congress minister HY Meti had to resign from the Siddaramaiah cabinet in 2016 after the release of a CD allegedly with sleazy footage. The CD was released by an RTI activist and it was alleged that the local politics of his constituency was the reason.

Poached MLAs

How widespread the threat of such sting operations became clear when Kumaraswamy’s coalition government was toppled by the BJP to form the government by poaching 17 MLAs from Congress and JD(S) in 2019. A few MLAs, who became ministers in the BSY government, went to court as “precaution to prevent the telecast of unverified reports” and got an injunction.

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Interestingly, Kumaraswamy recently made a statement on Santro Ravi’s connection with a Mumbai hotel where these MLAs were taken to by the BJP, and asked for a detailed probe. There are rumours in political circles that Santro Ravi has some CDs which could allegedly prove ‘dangerous’ for a few politicians.

Other instances

Apart from these high-profile instances, there have been other cases too. In 2013, BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat could not contest in the election as he was allegedly caught in a spy-camera CD.

In 2019, a sex tape, allegedly of Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavali, went made public on social media. It cost him heavily as he was said to be in the race for Deputy CM’s post in the BSY government. However, later the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) submitted a report to the HAL police stating the tape was not genuine. Limbavali was recently again caught on camera shouting at a woman, which went viral on social media and embarrassed the BJP government.

In September 20212, former Union minister and former CM DV Sadananada Gowda tweeted that those “who are upset by my rise on the political front, have brought out a fake, lewd video of mine for my fall. The video has become viral on social media, which pains me.”. Later he registered a case with the cyber crime police.

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