BANGALORE: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka suffered a major embarrassment as three of its ministers quit Wednesday, a day after two of them were caught on television cameras watching a porn clip on the cell phone of the third in the assembly.
While BJP president Nitin Gadkari said the party had taken action against the three, the opposition in Karnataka mounted pressure for their expulsion from the house.
All three - Cooperation and Agricultural Marketing Minister Laxman Savadi, Women and Child Development Minister C.C. Patil and Minister for Environment, Ecology and Ports Krishna Palemar - claimed they had quit "voluntarily" and were ready for a probe.
"We have resigned to avoid embarrassment to our party and not give the opposition a flimsy excuse to disrupt the assembly proceedings. We are ready to face an enquiry by the speaker (K.G. Bopaiah) as we did no wrong by watching a video clip of some rave incident in a foreign country to know what a rave party is," a rattled Savadi told reporters at the party office here.
A communique from the Raj Bhavan said Governor H.R. Bhardwaj had accepted their resignations on the recommendation of Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda.
Terming the incident as unfortunate, Gadkari said in Allahabad that the party took action against the disgraced ministers.
"They said they are innocent, we said resign immediately. An inquiry will be done," Gadkari said.
The scandal comes in the wake of a series of troubles for the BJP in Karnataka, the first state in south India where the party has taken power.
With local and national news channels beaming through the night the footage of Savadi and Patil animatedly viewing the sleaze on Palemar's cell phone, the party's embarassed leadership came under pressure to immediately sack the tainted trio.
With the state legislature in a 10-day session since Jan 30, the party's central and state leadership prevailed on the ministers to quit.
The chief minister said the ministers resigned voluntarily.
The ministers were caught watching porn when the house was discussing a call-attention motion on a pro-Hindu group allegedly hoisting a Pakistani flag Jan 1 at Sindagi town in north Karnataka.
Savadi claimed that Palemar showed them a video clip of the rave party held late Saturday on St.Mary's island off the western coast, about 400 km from here, late Saturday by foreign tourists.
"As there was a heated debate on the controversial rave party during the day, we were trying to understand how such parties are conducted in foreign countries. As the handset also had video clip on some rape and murder incident in a Muslim country, it was on the screen in motion," an unfazed Patil tried to explain.
Seizing the opportunity, the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) urged the speaker to expel the three legislators as they had brought down the dignity of the house by indulging in perverted conduct when even the use of mobiles are banned in the house, especially during the session.
"Resignation is not adequate. They should be expelled from the assembly. We will insist on their expulsion," state Congress unit president G. Parameshwara told reporters.
The JD-S sought immediate disqualification of the trio.
The two parties have planned to protest in the assembly till the three are expelled.
Admitting that the incident was an embarrassment to the party, BJP's state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa said it was unfortunate.
"I cannot say it has not caused embarrassment to the party," Eshwarappa said.
Gadkari linked the incident to the larger deterioration in values. "Whether it is the media or administration or society, it is a matter of concern."