Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala administers the oath of office and secrecy to Laxman Savadi during the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka BJP Government, at Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru | PTI
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala (C) administers the oath of office and secrecy to Laxman Savadi (L) during the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka BJP Government, at Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru | PTI
Text Size:

Bengaluru: In 2012, BJP leaders Laxman Savadi, C.C. Patil and Krishna Palemar resigned as Karnataka ministers after they were caught watching porn in the assembly while the proceedings were on — a controversy that left the party deeply embarrassed.

Seven years later, two of them — Patil and Savadi — are back in the state cabinet. 

However, while Patil is an elected MLA, Savadi’s not, having lost the 2018 assembly election to the Congress candidate. His redemption, say sources in the BJP, rests instead on the role he played in engineering the Congress-JD(S) government’s collapse last month.

Of the 17 rebel MLAs who rebelled, Savadi is said to have convinced six legislators of the Congress to switch sides. 

‘Educational purposes’

Savadi had weathered the porn controversy with unapologetic audacity, claiming that it was for “educational purposes” that they were viewing the clips. 

“The assembly was getting ready to discuss a rave party scandal… in Mangaluru, and somebody had shared a clip of how rapes happen during such parties,” he had told this reporter when the controversy broke out. “We were only trying to understand the situation so that we could debate in the House.” 

Although initially sidelined after the row, Savadi has grown to be a very powerful leader in the party given his popularity in north Karnataka. 

The Lingayat strongman, a three-time legislator, belongs to Athani in Belagavi district, which is known as the sugar bowl of the state and accounts for some of its wealthiest legislators. 

Savadi is known for his oratory, as well as his organisational skills. An agriculturist by profession, Savadi courts popularity on account of his association with several co-operative societies in the region. 

He also served a full term as director of the Belagavi District Central Cooperative Bank, a highly influential post as the bank controls all the cooperative banks in the region. His popularity soared after he defeated former Karnataka labour minister A.B. Jakanur’s son in the DCC bank elections in the late 1990s.

“He has a very ‘desi’ connect with people,” said Umesh Nimbargi of Athani. “His strength is that he is able to connect with his voters instantly, as he has always been with the working class.” 

Sugar baron Ramesh Jarkiholi, the influential Congress leader who also played a leading role in the string of defections that brought down the Kumaraswamy administration, comes from Belagavi as well.

The two, who together boast of considerable influence in the districts of Belagavi, Haveri, Gadag, Dharwad, Bagalkote and Bijapur in the Bombay-Karnatak region, are rivals of yore. 

An aggressive campaign launched by Jarkiholi and his brothers is believed to have played a major role in Savadi’s narrow defeat in the 2018 assembly election, where he lost to Mahesh Kumatihalli of the Congress by 2,331 votes — his first defeat since his entry into active politics in 2004. 

Kumatihalli’s candidature was supported by the Jarkiholis, who campaigned extensively and vigorously against Savadi in Athani, sparing no opportunity to raise the porn clip controversy. 

The campaign was so aggressive and the 2018 election fought so bitterly between Jarkiholi and Savadi that even the state leadership decided to put his name on the backburner while deciding names for various party positions

However, despite the setbacks, he won over the BJP leadership with the “relentless work” he continued to do for the party, sources in the party said. 

“He promised the BJP leadership he would successfully bring in a few legislators from the Congress, especially from north Karnataka and he delivered,” said a senior BJP functionary. 

“He is now being groomed for a bigger role. He was made an observer during the Maharashtra elections by the BJP high command,” the functionary added. “This shows that the past is past and they trust him to handle bigger responsibilities in the near future.” 


Also read: CM for 20 days, Yediyurappa builds his image with full-page ads as Karnataka battles floods


A message to Congress rebel

Despite their rivalry, Jarkiholi and Savadi find themselves on the same side now as two of the alleged architects of the Congress-JD(S) defections. However, sources told ThePrint, the BJP wants Savadi’s precedence made clear to Jarkiholi. 

Jarkiholi attempted two rebellions in the Congress in 2018 but failed, and it was only with Savadi’s intervention that the BJP ensured the rebels stayed together until the end, the sources added. 

With Savadi’s induction in the cabinet, the BJP brass hopes to send a message that he is one of them, and their bitter rivalry will have to be buried if Jarkiholi wants to find a place in the party. 

Bengaluru-based political analyst Mahadev Prakash agreed. “Yediyurappa is sending out a clear message to Ramesh Jarkiholi that while they have embraced him, they will be grooming Savadi as he is (more) loyal and homegrown,” he added.

‘Cracks have appeared’

Not everyone in the BJP is happy with Savadi’s acceptance into the party fold again, a senior north Karnataka Congress leader from Kagwad said. 

According to the leader, Savadi does not wield as much power as claimed by the BJP and does not bring much to the table.

“His induction has added to the already growing factionalism among BJP MLAs in Belagavi. The cracks have already begun forming. Soon, it may become a huge problem for the BJP to handle,” the leader told The Print . 

Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundurao, meanwhile, said Savadi’s induction was definitely a surprise

“Taking him in as a minister despite him not being an elected member may lead to complications,” he added. “There are several other eligible leaders in the BJP who have been vying for a berth and sidelining them to give Savadi a chance is quite surprising.” 

Political analyst Prakash pointed out that Savadi belongs to the Lingayat Ganiga sub-sect which has huge influence in north Karnataka. 

“He has been loyal to Yediyurappa for the last 15 years. It also is known that Mahesh Kumatihalli (one of the rebels) is not expected to contest from Athani, paving the way for him to contest from there,” he added. 


Also read: ‘Leaked tapes’ of Karnataka IPS officer, murky power deal — scandal hits Yediyurappa govt


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.

Support Our Journalism

2 Comments Share Your Views

2 COMMENTS

  1. When in BJP the corrupt and immoral persons become good !!! That is the power of the party !!!

    I think with this kind of falsehood they have ruined Karnataka and the whole country.

  2. We do hope Mr Savadi will soon “educate” his Cabinet colleagues in the right kind of activities, to ensure Karnataka’s faster progress.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here