Revanna ‘sexual abuse’ rocks NDA Karnataka push | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Revanna ‘sexual abuse’ rocks NDA Karnataka push

By, Bengaluru
Apr 30, 2024 08:23 AM IST

Political firestorm over sexual harassment allegations against Prajwal and HD Revanna, JD(S) leaders, leads to calls for their expulsion amid controversy.

The political firestorm over allegations of sexual harassment against Janata Dal (Secular) member of Parliament Prajwal Revanna and his father, MLA HD Revanna, grew into a raging controversy on Monday, with the party scrambling to distance themselves from the two — the grandson and son of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda respectively — even as calls for their expulsion from within the party emerged; and the Congress attacking the newly minted BJP-JD(S) alliance for fielding Prajwal Revanna from Hassan despite red-flags being raised as early as December, and accusing the BJP of allowing him to leave the country. The JD(S) has convened a critical core committee meeting in Hubbali on Tuesday, with a decision on the two party leaders on the agenda; the options of either suspending or expelling them on the table, people familiar with the matter said.

Congress workers stage a protest demanding the arrest of JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna in Bengaluru on Sunday. (ANI)
Congress workers stage a protest demanding the arrest of JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna in Bengaluru on Sunday. (ANI)

Meanwhile, the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party has clarified that it had nothing to with Prajwal Revanna’s candidature. “The alliance is for election purposes; the decision of candidate selection is not done by the BJP. Once the seat sharing was discussed, the authority to decide the candidate rests with the party that is contesting from the seat,” said BJP national general secretary Radha Mohan Das Agrawal, who is overseeing the election in Karnataka.

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In the week before the constituency of Hassan, a family pocket borough of the JD(S), went to the polls in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26, pen drives that showed purported sexual acts by Prajwal Revanna with multiple women, amid allegations of mass abuse, came to the fore. Karnataka government officials said that a pen drive circulated in Hassan had 2,976 videos, some a few seconds long, and some that last a few minutes. Preliminary investigations have suggested that most were shot from a mobile phone at their residences in Bengaluru and Hassan after 2019. On Saturday, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the charges, following a request from the Karnataka State Women’s Commission. “The chairperson of the Women’s Commission had written to the government, requesting an SIT investigation, and this decision has been made in response to their request. Explicit video clips are being circulated in Hassan, indicating potential instances of sexual assault,” Siddaramaiah said on Saturday.

On Sunday, the first FIR was registered in the case, against both Prajwal Revanna and his father HD Revanna, based on a complaint by a woman who used to worked in their home and alleged abuse between 2019 and 2022. “In a household with six female staff members, apprehension gripped us whenever Prajwal Revanna returned home. Even male colleagues cautioned us to exercise caution… Whenever (HD) Revanna’s wife wasn’t there, he used to call the women to the storeroom and touch them while giving them fruits. He used to remove saree pins and sexually assault women,” the complaint said. The police have registered a case under sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (outraging modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), with the investigation transferred to the SIT.

With Prajwal Revanna abroad, HD Revanna on Monday said that they would face the allegations “legally” and said that this was not the first political controversy Deve Gowda’s family had faced. “We are here and we will face it legally. They have got something which is four to five years old and are now booking a case. I will not react to the issue as the case has been given to the SIT and their investigation should not be hindered,” HD Revanna said. On Wednesday, Poornachandra Tejaswi MG, the Hassan election agent of the Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP also registered an FIR, alleging the videos were fake, and manufactured to defame Prajwal Revanna.

Revanna said that the allegations against him and his son were driven by politics and that the Congress “will do whatever they want”. “All these things are not just from today. The Deve Gowda family in the last 40 years have been facing a CID probe, Lokayukta probe. Let them take action in accordance with the law,” he said.

The Holenarasipur MLA, who is Deve Gowda’s elder son said that Prajwal Revanna left the country “normally”. “Did he know they will file an FIR and constitute an SIT? He will come when called for an investigation,” Revanna said.

But HD Revanna’s younger brother HD Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and state JD(S) president, sought to distance the party and Deve Gowda’s name from the allegations. “I want to ask Congress leaders, why bring family into it? An individual and his deeds are in question here, not the family. Why bring the family’s name, Deve Gowda’s name or Kumaraswamy’s name? I have myself said that whoever has committed the mistake has to undergo punishment,” Kumaraswamy said.

Kumaswamy said that they had no prior intimation of the allegations, or Revanna’s travel plans. “Where did we know about the matter? They(Revanna family) are separate. If it had come to our notice, we could have taken action and stopped this embarrassing situation from coming to pass.”

But even as the JD(S) battled to quell the fires, voices from within the party emerged on Monday, asking for Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna to be expelled from the party in 24 hours. On Monday, a JD(S) legislator known to be close to former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, Sharan Gouda Kandkur, wrote to the party’s national president HD Deve Gowda, demanding action.

“In the past few days, videos showing sexual acts have been circulated statewide, causing huge embarrassment for the party. It appears to involve Prajwal Revanna, as he was seen in some parts of the video. At first glance, it seems he is the accused. Hence, I request you to immediately expel him from the party,” wrote Kandkur.

Kumaraswamy said that the party would take “merciless action” and there was no question of “defending him (Prajwal)”. “SIT has been formed, if the (crime) is proved in the investigation, whoever is involved has to undergo punishment. Whoever has committed the wrong has to bow down as per the law of the land.”

The Congress attacked the BJP-JD(S) alliance and said that both parties were aware of the existence of these allegations for several months. Karnataka women and child development minister Laxmi Hebbalkar said, “Union home minister Amit Shah, Karnataka BJP chief Y Vijayendra knew about such CDs and videos as BJP leader Devaraje Gowda wrote a letter to BY Vijayendra and also spoke with him.”

Gowda, a BJP leader from Hassan, had ostensibly written to state party chief BY Vijayendra in December 2023, telling him that these videos could be used as a weapon if the JD(S) was allowed to contest from Hassan. “This will be a big blow to the image of our party nationally,” he wrote.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on X, “The leader on whose shoulder the PM puts his hand and gets himself photographed, the leader for whom the PM himself goes to campaign 10 days before the election. He praises him on the stage. Today that leader from Karnataka is absconding from the country. Just hearing about his heinous crimes makes my heart tremble. He has ruined the lives of hundreds of women. Modi ji will you remain silent?”

But state BJP president Vijayendra, the son of former chief minister Yediyurappa, said that it was “not right” to drag the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi into this controversy. “Our stand is clear in this matter. The state government has formed an SIT and whatever action has to be taken against the accused will be taken. The Congress should not politicise the matter by dragging the Prime Minister’s name,” he said.

With 14 key constituencies (the rest voted in the second phase on April 26) set to vote in the third phase on May 7, the furore has cast a shadow over the BJP-JD(S) alliance campaign. Senior BJP leaders said that they hoped any electoral damage will be mitigated because much of the JD(S) areas of influence are in south Karnataka where elections have already taken place.

A senior BJP leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the party would try and separate itself from the controversy. “As much as Kumaraswamy claims they influence parts of north Karnataka, we know it is not significant. On the ground, we do not see people in north Karnataka [where polling is due on May 7] talking about the issue,” the leader said.

When pressed on whether the issue will affect the BJP’s chances in the second phase, Vijayendra said on Monday, “People will vote keeping Narendra Modi in mind.”

(Smriti Kak Ramachandran contributed to this report)

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