Bengaluru: The ‘sex scandal’ allegedly involving BJP MLA and former Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi rocked the Karnataka Assembly again on Tuesday, with the Opposition Congress protesting in the well of the house, demanding an inquiry monitored by the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Repeated adjournments marred the proceedings, pushing it towards a washout, as Congress members prevented any business from taking place by shouting slogans, even as the government did not budge to their demand and remained adamant.
Efforts by Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri to normalise the situation to transact business by calling a meeting of floor leaders did not make any headway.
However, there was a slight shift in the Congress’ stand with Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah stating that the Special Investigation Team probing the case should be monitored by the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court.
Speaking to reporters outside the assembly, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa charged Congress with wasting the time of the House as they don’t have any issues.
“During the budget session, our Congress friends, by giving lame excuses, are protesting. Ramesh Jarkiholi has already resigned, taking moral responsibility and investigation is on. The woman (in the video) is not coming forward to give her statement. We are trying to find her. What else has to be done? Why are you (Congress) protesting? I’m not able to understand,” he said.
Jarkiholi, BJP MLA from Gokak, resigned as minister on March 3 after a social activist lodged a police complaint alleging sexual harassment to a ‘job aspirant’ and video clips purportedly showing their intimate moments surfaced. He has repeatedly claimed innocence and that the video was “fake”.
Soon after the House paid obituary to former Minister BD Basavaraju, who passed away on Monday, Congress members trooped into the well, demanding a court-monitored probe.
“If the government does not agree to our demands, how can we cooperate?” Siddaramaiah asked when the Speaker requested them to cooperate to take up the question hour.
Waving CDs, Congress members shouted, “down down CD government,” to which some BJP MLAs like M P Renukacharya “Down down to manufacturers of CDs…Congress, a CD factory.”
The Speaker said it was not right to carry CDs to the House and brandish them and asked the members to allow the conduct of question hour.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the government has given a detailed reply to the matter after discussions on Monday and there was nothing more to add to it.
“The investigation is already going on… please don’t waste the time of the House. By not allowing it to function, the rights of the other members are being infringed. It should not happen,” he added.
As his repeated appeals went in vain, Kageri adjourned the House for some time and during the break, summoned the floor leaders to find a way out of the impasse.
When the House resumed, Congress members continued to protest from the well, raising slogans against the government.
The Speaker informed the House he had spoken to floor leaders about finding a way out and transacting the business.
Pointing out that discussion on the budget and demands are pending, he said “this House does not belong to just the opposition or ruling party, but to all 224 members. Everyone has the right to raise their issues and take part in the discussion.
It should not be curtailed.
If you are not happy with the government’s response, plan activities outside, but allow the house to function.”
Bommai again intervened to say that the government has made its stand clear to the LoP during the meeting. If the opposition was not satisfied with it, they could do anything outside, but not infringe on the rights of other members through disruptions.
“If they are in the well, let them stand silently, if not take action against them,” he urged the Speaker.
As Kageri requested the LoP to cooperate, Siddaramaiah said they were making a fair demand, that the probe should be under the supervision of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
“Let them get it done by SIT. we are not asking for a Judicial Commission, but our intention is that the truth has to come out… if our demands are met, we will cooperate.”
As a repeated appeal to members to go back to their seats went unheard and slogans like “Down down CD government” continued, the Speaker adjourned the House till post-lunch.
Congress had raised the issue on Monday, demanding that Jarkiholi be booked for rape and an independent inquiry monitored by the Chief Justice.
The LoP had alleged that the SIT was focusing only on the conspiracy behind the scandal, but not the woman
Bommai had defended the SIT probe and said guidelines are being followed concerning the woman’s video statement.