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Mystery of a Deputy CM Who’s Not an MLA & Had to Resign for Watching Porn Clips in K'taka Assembly

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and BJP candidate Laxman Savadi. (Image credit: Twitter@LaxmanSavadi)

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and BJP candidate Laxman Savadi. (Image credit: Twitter@LaxmanSavadi)

Considering the background, not everyone in the BJP is able to understand Savadi’s hold over the party high command that led to him being chosen as one of the three leaders to become deputy to the chief minister in the new dispensation.

Bengaluru: In early 2012, when DV Sadananda Gowda headed a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka, a porn scandal hit the Cabinet in the state, undoubtedly the most embarrassing and trying phase for him personally. Three ministers — Laxman Savadi, CC Patil and Krishna Palemar — were caught on camera watching pornographic clips in the Assembly hall while discussions were underway.

Gowda, who directed them to resign before the Assembly convened the next morning, was distraught. They had the backing of others in the BJP. The trio finally resigned after Gowda gave them an ultimatum — it was either them or him. Today, two of these ministers — Savadi and Patil — are decorating the BS Yediyurappa Cabinet. However, in a decision that has taken many even within the party by surprise, Savadi has been made a deputy chief minister.

Talk to BJP leaders and they brush off the porn scandal as a thing of the past.

“It was a small thing. And it is forgotten,” says an MP from the region from where Savadi hails.

“He (Savadi) paid the penalty for it at that time itself (by resigning from the Cabinet.) So why is that an issue now?” asks an MLA from a neighbouring district.

What has angered the BJP’s other senior members, however, is that Savadi is not even an MLA. He lost the election in 2018 to the Congress’ Mahesh Kumathalli — an MLA who quit the Assembly and was disqualified after ‘Operation Kamala’ last month brought down the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government. It was as part of this operation that 17 MLAs quit their memberships to the Assembly and enabled the BJP to form a government.

Considering the background, not everyone in the BJP is able to understand Savadi’s hold over the party high command that led to him being chosen as one of the three leaders to become deputy to the chief minister in the new dispensation. Sure, he is a Lingayat, and perhaps the BJP needed to promote another Lingayat face since Yediyurappa, the party's tallest Lingayat leader, is already 76 and wouldn’t be considered for yet another term. But there are many other Lingayats in the party — 38 of its 105 MLAs are from the community, some of whom are considerably powerful and one of them has even been a chief minister before.

“He has good organising capacity, not just in north Karnataka but in Maharashtra as well. He is very close to the Maharashtra BJP chief as he (the latter) hails from Kolhapur, the district that borders Athani from where Savadi contested,” says an MLA. Athani is in Belagavi district in the Mumbai-Karnataka region.

That apart, Savadi is close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) bosses of the Mumbai-Karnataka region. However, what tilted things in his favour was the fact that the BJP wanted to cut down to size the growing influence of other BJP leaders in Belagavi.

This district is mostly known for two influential politicians and their families — the Jharkiholi brothers, one of whom is in the Congress, another in the BJP, while a third was a Congress MLA who tried to defect and is now disqualified; and the Katti family, with legislator Umesh Katti.

While these two families have off and on had tiffs with each other when it came to local zilla panchayats or cooperative societies, it is Savadi who has gained. The BJP wanted to keep at bay both the families’ growing influence in the region, and have its own RSS-rooted man to wield greater power. And Savadi emerged as a natural choice.

How well this will be taken by the party’s vote-banks, of course, will be known once by-elections are held in the 17 constituencies that saw the MLAs rebelling.​