Bangalore, Feb 8 Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers in Karnataka, Laxman Savadi and C.C. Patil, were Tuesday caught watching porn on a cell phone in the state assembly, prompting speculation that the red-faced party may sack them from the cabinet late Tuesday night.
The two were caught by cameras of private Kannada TV channels, which are allowed to telecast the assembly proceedings, and the clippings were shown after the house adjourned for the day.
The clippings show Savadi, cooperation minister, intently watching the clipping and Patil, minister for women and child welfare, peeping for a few seconds and moving to apparently switch off the cell.
The two denied they were watching porn and claimed it was a clipping of a rape and murder scene in a foreign country which they saw in the light of controversy of a group of foreigners indulging in a sex act recently at a tourism promotion event near Udupi, about 400 km west of Bangalore.
The two dragged in a third colleague, Environment and Port Minister J. Krishna Palemar, saying the cell phone belonged to him.
The scandalous incident sent shock waves across the state and demand for their dismissal from the ministry and expulsion from the assembly mounted from the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular and various groups.
It came hours before the voting in the Uttar Pradesh assembly where BJP is fighting what poll forecasts say a losing battle.
There was intense speculation in BJP circles in Bangalore that the "high command" has asked state leaders to get the resignation of all the three ministers to avoid the issue from snow-balling into a major controversy in Uttar Pradesh where polling is being held in several phases till March first week.
Karnataka BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa said late Tuesday that he has seen TV clippings and discussed the developments with other party leaders in the state and also with central leaders.
He declined to react to questions on whether the central leaders had already sought the resignation of all the three ministers or at least of the two, Savadi and Patil.
Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was away in Chikmagalur district, about 250 km north of Bangalore, told reporters that he has no information and will react after finding out what has happened.
Assembly speaker K.G. Bopaiah too said he will enquire and then act, though he acknowledged that use of cell phones in the house is barred.
The incident took place when the assembly was discussing a pro-Hindu group allegedly hoisting a Pakistani flag in north Karnataka recently.
This was the second incident involving sex and a BJP minister in Karnataka where the party came to power for the first time in May 2008.
In May 2010, food and civil supplies minister Haratalu Halappa was forced to quit after he was accused of raping his friend's wife in Shimoga, about 280 km north of Bangalore.
Earlier, another BJP legislator, M.P. Renukacharya, now excise minister, had been accused by a nurse of sexually harassing her. The nurse, Jayalakshmi, had released to the media photos of Renukacharya kissing her, and claimed they had been taken after threatening her.
Groups of pro-Kannada activists took to streets in Bangalore, Mysore in south, Dharwad and Shimoga in the north and at several other places demanding immediate sacking of Savadi and Patil.
In Bangalore, stones were hurled at Savadi's ministerial bungalow by a pro-Kannada group which was later chased away by police.
This is the first major embarrassment for Gowda in his six months in office, which he assumed under another ugly development in BJP's short history of rule in the only southern Indian state.
The BJP came to power in May 2008 and its first chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa was forced to quit July 31 last year following corruption charges.
The Janata Dal-Secular state head and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said his party, which has 26 members in the assembly, will decide Wednesday the action to be taken to get Savadi and Patil sacked from the ministry and expelled from the house.
"This is a black spot on Karnataka assembly and the people of the state," Kumaraswamy said.
Leader of the opposition in the assembly, Siddaramaiah of Congress said the two should be thrown out of the ministry and the assembly without any delay.
"This is the most shameful incident in the history of Karnataka assembly. The two should be sacked and expelled from the assembly," Siddaramaiah said.