India's 'porngate' sends shivers through BJP party leadership

opinion February 15, 2012 00:00

By Tyagaraj Sharma
The Statesman

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When TV 9's Srinivas Kulkarni readied his camera to cover the Karnataka Assembly proceedings from the visitors' gallery last week, he expected a routine, dull affair.

After all, nothing exciting was listed for the day.

That is, until Srinivas saw Minister for Cooperation Laxman Savadi looking furtively at the visitors’ gallery while holding his cellphone. This happened once too often, prompting an alert Srinivas to zero in on the minister, who by then had been joined by C Patil, minister for women and child development.
The assembled cameramen began to capture what they realised was a big story. Finishing the job, they quickly sent the tapes to their outdoor broadcast (OB) vans. After that, all hell broke loose as the channels telecast the all-important footage, immediately putting the state ruling party and its central leadership to shame. Predictably, the telecast led to a furore with BJP leaders running for cover. 
With the Opposition also going on the offensive, a red-faced government sought to buy peace by forcing the tainted ministers to resign immediately. For good measure, it also ordered a probe with a report expected by March 12. 
“Porngate”, as the affair has come to be known, could not have come at a worse time for the BJP, which is trying hard to make a comeback in Uttar Pradesh, where crucial Assembly polls are under way. With the general election too expected to be held in the next year, the puerility of its three Karnataka legislators comes as a self-indictment for the party whose tendency to commit hara-kiri is all too well known.
The party’s record in the state leaves much to be desired, with some 15 of its legislators already tainted with charges of rape, corruption, closing illegal deals, and much more. 
Topping the list is none other than Yeddyurappa who quit on July 31, 2011 following his indictment by the then Lokayukta, Justice N Santosh Hegde, for encouraging rampant illegal mining in the state.
It seems that the “party with a difference” has gone overboard to show how different it truly is!
The double standards of the porn-watching lawmakers – particularly C Patil, who last month said women needed a dress code to avoid inviting sexual assault – have come under severe scrutiny. 
Interestingly, the three tainted legislators are known to be supporters of Yeddyurappa. But unlike Yeddyurappa, they may go scot free – a senior police officer says that existing cyber crime legislation has loopholes that the offending ministers can exploit. If that is so, a criminal case could be registered against the trio, as watching pornographic material in public is an offence.
Legal opinions apart, the fact remains that some BJP legislators have got away with similar behaviour in the past with the party even going so far as to promoting them. A case in point is that of the Honnali MLA, MP Renukacharya. He was promoted by Yeddyurappa as excise minister 20 months after a nurse accused him of sexually exploiting her.
Be that as it may, the red-faced BJP is maintaining a low profile for now, suspending all political activities for the rest of this month. A senior leader said: “One thing is clear. We are not ready for another jolt.”
Meanwhile, the Karnataka legislature is all set to have its proceedings telecast, with the state government budgeting about 30 crore for the project. The advantage of such an investment: the feed would be censored by the government before being aired to the public! Until that time, the BJP will fervently hope that no other member embarrasses the party.