Prajwal Revanna | Rise and fall

The NDA’s candidate in Hassan, grandson of former PM Deve Gowda, is accused of sexual assault on several women and faces arrest when he returns to the country

May 05, 2024 05:22 am | Updated 07:45 pm IST

Prajwal Revanna is facing an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for alleged sexual assault on women.

Prajwal Revanna is facing an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for alleged sexual assault on women. | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

From being the sole MP from Janata Dal (Secular) in the Lok Sabha in 2019 to being suspended by the party in 2024 and facing investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for alleged sexual assault on women, Prajwal Revanna’s fall has been quick and dramatic. Believed to be in Germany, the Hassan MP, grandson of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, skipped the summons from the SIT, which has now got a lookout circular issued at all entry points to the country. He is charged with rape.

Prajwal’s 2024 election campaign from Hassan has been marred by the now infamous ‘pen drives’ that has changed the course of election narrative in Karnataka and has put his party, founded by his grandfather, as well as the alliance partner BJP, in a quandary. Prajwal, as the NDA candidate, is facing the Congress’ Shreyas Patel, the grandson of former legislator Puttaswamy Gowda, who fought Mr. Deve Gowda in many election battles.

At the centre of the ‘biggest sex scandal’ so far that has rocked the State, he faces accusation of sexual assault on women from various social and economic background, and recording the act on his mobile phones, in some cases despite opposition by his victims.

The pen drive floating around Hassan has 2,976 files, the bulk of which are screenshots of chats, video calls with several women and nearly 100 videos. It also includes two videos — one of a housemaid, who has now allegedly been kidnapped at the behest of Prajwal’s father, and another video of a farm labourer being raped allegedly by the MP. Police are estimating the number of women victimised by the incumbent MP to be over 90. These pen drives, released four days before the elections on April 26, containing explicit videos and without masking the identity of the victims, appeared mysteriously in public places.

The 2019 parliamentary elections saw the rise of Prajwal in Hassan’s political landscape in Karnataka. First member of the third generation in the Gowda clan to taste election success, the 28-year old was among the young Parliamentarians in the country in 2019. The rest of the family, however, was not as lucky. Mr. Deve Gowda, who had vacated his home turf Hassan to his grandson and moved to neighbouring Tumakuru, tasted defeat in his last electoral battle while another grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost from Mandya, the hotbed of Vokkaliga politics in the Old Mysore region.

Though publicly Prajwal was seen as “an arrogant young man with a feudal mindset”, long-time observers of the Gowda family say his public actions were mostly aimed at cementing his place politically in the district and challenging the power of his uncle and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy within the party structure. Though there were murmurs in Hassan about sex tapes after he sought injunction from the court in June 2023, to prevent airing or publishing any explicit content, the magnitude of the scandal has sent shock waves among the public, and apparently within the family and party too.

The Gowda Family Tree

The Gowda Family Tree

Powerful father

His father H.D. Revanna, a former Minister and elder brother of Mr. Kumaraswamy, has run the party affairs in Hassan with an iron grip. Prajwal and his elder brother Sooraj Revanna, an MLC, have been part of the electioneering process of their father as well as their mother Bhavani Revanna, a former member of Hassan Zilla Panchayat. He was a toddler when his grandfather became the PM and his father became a Cabinet Minister, and a teenager when his uncle became the Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2006.

An engineering graduate, Mr. Prajwal has always been interested in politics. He has often courted controversies, too, many of which were aimed at his uncle. When he was denied ticket to contest from Hunsur in the 2018 assembly elections, his remark that “hardworking people get to sit in the back but those with suitcases get front seats”, aimed at Mr. Kumaraswamy, rattled the party leadership. Not hesitating to express his displeasure, Mr. Deve Gowda had said, “The boy’s future does not seem bright if he continues to talk like this.” However, he later vacated his seat to his grandson, and Prajwal was also made the party’s general secretary.

After 2019 elections, though he publicly offered to resign and allow his grandfather to recontest, it did not happen. His rival A. Manju, who is now a JD (S) legislator, had accused Prajwal of providing incomplete details in affidavit on assets and liabilities besides accusing him of booth capturing and proxy voting. Though the Karnataka High Court declared his election as null and void in September 2023, the Supreme Court stayed the order.

In the run-up to the 2024 elections, the former Prime Minister’s family was divided over giving ticket to Mr. Prajwal as allegations of sexual misconduct had come out in the open. Mr. Kumaraswamy is learnt to have opposed his candidature, but the Revanna family’s wish prevailed. During the campaign, Prajwal often referred to the ‘mistakes’ that he had committed in five years and apologised. However, he did not disclose what those ‘mistakes’ were.

The family had also anticipated trouble since G. Devaraje Gowda, the BJP candidate who lost to Mr. Revanna in the 2023 assembly polls from Holenarasipura, had told the media about the presence of a large number of videos. He is learnt to have written to BJP state President B.Y. Vijayendra in December 2023, warning him of problems if Mr. Prajwal was given a ticket.

In a tight election that has become hard to predict, the issue has also given ammunition to the Congress to attack the BJP, and PM Narendra Modi has been questioned for sharing dais with a rape accused and allowing him to escape from the country.

BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have tried to turn the tables by accusing the Congress of allowing him to flee. As the blame game rages ahead of another round of elections on May 7, Prajwal’s return to the country to face a probe is awaited.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.