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Assembly session starts on stormy note amid LDF protest

Assembly session starts on stormy note amid LDF protest

Thiruvananthapuram: The opening day of the budget session of the Assembly Monday began on a stormy note with CPI-M-led LDF Opposition continuing its protest demanding resignation of Finance Minister K M Mani and Excise Minister K Babu over the bar bribery licence scam.

LDF members led by their leader and CPI-M veteran V S Achuthanandan staged a walkout when an adjournment motion, sought to be moved by them, was rejected by Speaker N Sakthan.

Asoon as the zero hour began after an obituary reference to a former MLA who died recently, CPI-M Deputy leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan sought leave for the motion and alleged that government was trying to sabotage vigilance probe in the case.

Replying to the notice, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala refuted the charge and said the probe against Mani was reaching its final stage.

"Report will be filed in the court as and when the probe is over following all legal and procedures," he said.

"Vigilance is conducting the investigation impartially and government has not interfered in the probe," he asserted.

Countering the opposition charge that vigilance was trying to give a clean chit to Mani, he said investigating agency could take action only on the basis of evidence "and it cannot take steps just to satisfy the opposition."

The preliminary investigation against Babu was also in the final stages, he said.

Mani, chief of Kerala Congress (M), third largest partner in Congress-led ruling UDF with nine MLAs, said the opposition move based on the charges of a bar hotel owner Biju Ramesh was politically motivated. "There is no truth in it," he said.

Slamming the opposition for attacking the government based on the charges of bar hotel owners, Babu said it was part of a conspiracy to pull down the UDF government.

LDF members came to the House with placards and banners demanding resignation of Mani and Babu.

The UDF government has been under attack ever since Biju Ramesh, working president of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association alleged in November last that Mani had accepted a Rs one crore bribe from the association. Later he also alleged that the association also paid bribe of Rs ten crore to Babu.

Balakrishnan alleged that attempt to protect Mani was to save the ministry itself as the KC-M leader had threatened to pull out, if chargesheet was filed against him.

The House had witnessed unprecedented bedlam on March 13 with LDF demanding Mani's resignation over the bar bribery licence scam when he presented the budget.

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