Thiruvananthapuram: Stepping up its agitation against the UDF government in the bar bribery scam, CPI(M)-led LDF opposition Monday targeted another minister, K Babu, and disrupted the first day of the Assembly proceedings demanding his resignation.
Babu, Excise Minister and close confidant of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, is the second minister facing charges of accepting bribe from bar owners. Earlier, Kerala Congress supremo K M Mani was forced to resign as Finance Minister in the bar case.
As the protest continued, the House was adjourned for the day after transacting the businesses scheduled.
The first session, after Mani's resignation following stinging court observations, saw Opposition targetting the excise minister in the bar case.
82-year-old Mani, the leader of the third largest partner in the ruling Congress-led UDF, was conspicuous by his absence on the first day of the 11-day session, considered to be the penultimate before the state gears up for assembly polls early next year.
The trouble began during zero hour, when the Opposition sought to move an adjournment motion demanding a comprehensive inquiry into the allegation of bar owners that Babu had received Rs 10 crore as bribe for reducing the proposed licence fee of bar hotels.
Seeking to move the motion, deputy opposition leader, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (CPI-M) said any inquiry against Babu, as long as he continues to be a minister, would not be fruitful.
"So, Babu should be removed from the cabinet, vigilance should register a case and a comprehensive inquiry ordered into the allegations against him," he said.
However, both Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Babu rejected the opposition charges as 'baseless' and said the government had decided not to have a further probe into the matter after holding a proper preliminary inquiry.
Disputing the opposition allegations that the government had shown "dual justice" to Mani and Babu, Chennithala said there was no difference between the 'Quick Verification' done in the case of Mani and the preliminary inquiry against Babu.
"So there is no point in the allegation of dual justice to Mani and Babu. There is no cognizable offence to register FIR against Babu in the preliminary inquiry," he added.
The Home Minister also said this government had never tried to cover up corruption.
After the minister's reply, Speaker N Sakthan refused permission for the motion prompting the opposition members to gather near the speaker's podium and start raising slogans against the government.
As the protest continued and the speaker's repeated plea to opposition members to cooperate for the smooth running of the House failed to yield any results, the chair rushed through the scheduled businesses and adjourned the House for the day.
The opposition members came to the House with placards and banners demanding resignation of Babu and were seen raising slogans even during the question hour when he was speaking.
Intervening in the matter, CPI(M) veteran and opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, on whose complaint a vigilance inquiry was ordered against Mani, said it was for the first time in the history of Kerala that bribery charges had been levelled against so many ministers.
He also sarcastically asked whether no inquiry had been ordered against Babu as he was close to chief minister.
Bribery charges against Mani and Babu were levelled by the Working President of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association Biju Ramesh.
A case was filed against Mani by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau after a 'Quick Verification' on the charges that he had taken a bribe of Rs one crore and demanded Rs five crore bribe for renewing bar licences in 2014.
Meanwhile, LDF activists took out a 'people's march' to the Assembly complex demanding Babu's resignation.