Home India Politics ‘Bargate’ dominates first day of Kerala assembly session

‘Bargate’ dominates first day of Kerala assembly session

Thiruvananthapuram : The first day of the Kerala assembly’s winter session witnessed noisy scenes Monday as the opposition brought up the ‘bargate’ scandal, saying Finance Minister K.M. Mani got Rs.1 crore as the first instalment of the Rs.5 crore he had demanded to reopen the 418 bars shut down in the state.

The opposition Left parties demanded Mani’s resignation, saying Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet were shielding the minister.

Whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh had said in October that Rs.1 crore was given to Mani as the first instalment of the Rs.5 crore he demanded.

The Left parties’ legislators entered the assembly holding placards and banners demanding that Mani quit, saying that never before has such an allegation been made against any minister.

After the question hour, CPI-M legislator Kodiyeri Balakrishnan sought leave for an adjournment motion, demanding that the ‘bargate’ issue be taken up for discussion and after that Mani should quit.

Brandishing a CD, he said: “This CD contains visuals and audio of the bargate bribery case. I want this to be placed on the table of the house. Never before has such a serious allegation been raised against any minister.

“This is a cognisable offence and there is even a complainant in this case. But, all of you are using your power and authority to wrap this up. You have not even registered a case and this is totally unfair,” he said.

Balakrishnan alleged that Mani was given Rs.1 crore in three instalments – Rs.15 lakh, Rs.35 lakh and Rs.50 lakh.

He said the people who gave the money and the dates when the money was handed over were known. “So just check their mobile signals, and you can easily see that the bribe allegation is correct.”

Deputy Speaker Sakthan Nadar intervened and told Balakrishnan that the procedure for placing documents in the house was that the chair should first be convinced of the contents and then only can they be placed on the table of the house.

Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said a probe was on and one could not register a case on the basis of just allegations.

“A quick verification on this is going on by the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau. The high court has been given a progress report on the probe. The probe is going on according to the guidelines of the Supreme Court. The vigilance (department) is not a caged parrot and no one will be spared. At the same time, the innocent won’t be haunted,” Chennithala said.

The 81-year-old Mani, who has been a legislator since 1967, took on the Left and said the bar owners and the opposition were behind this “conspiracy”.

“Neither me nor my party has asked anyone for any money and this is being raked up for no reason at all. You should behave yourselves,” Mani said, after which the Left members were up on their feet.

Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan then went hammer and tongs at Mani and Chandy.

“In this bribery scam, it’s not just Mani alone. Ever since this government assumed office, there have been all sorts of allegations, including the solar scam, titanium case, and all these scams. Mani, do you have the guts to quit and face a probe? Chandy, why are you remaining silent? We want to hear you as well,” Achuthanandan said.

When Chandy did not reply, Achuthanandan took the entire opposition out of the house to protest the manner in which the government was shielding Mani.

The vigilance department Monday submitted to the Kerala High Court a report on the scandal that includes statements from 26 people.