Bangalore/New Delhi: Mutton biryani for lunch, singing of folk songs, small talk and siestas Tuesday marked the second day of the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular legislators sit-in in the Karnataka assembly Tuesday to demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into illegal mining in the state.
Most of the 74 Congress and 27 JD-S members stayed overnight in the wood-panelled assembly, after a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dinner according to their tastes and returned the house after freshening up at their houses or at the legislators home to resume the sit-in. Breakfast was a choice between idlis and dosas.
Unlike Monday night, when some members had dinner in the house, meals Tuesday were outside the house, either in the lobby or in party offices as Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa accused the protesters of "lowering the dignity of the house by eating non-vegetarian food there".
Congress leaders denied they had dinner in the house Monday night. "We ate in the lobby, not inside the house," insisted Leader of Opposition Siddaramiah.
"We want a CBI probe. We demand justice", the members of the two parties chanted in unison as soon as the speaker K.G. Bopaiah entered the house Tuesday.
Bopaiah pleaded with the members to take their seats and allow the proceedings to start. Finding no takers for his pleas amid shouting from ruling and opposition members, he adjourned the house soon after to meet Wednesday.
The protesting legislators asserted that they will not call off the sit-in until the government agrees to a CBI probe.
"We will not budge from our stand and continue the dharna till the government agrees for a CBI probe," Siddaramaiah told reporters.
"Why is Yeddyurappa afraid of a CBI probe, if he is innocent," he asked, adding: "He (Yeddyurappa) is scared of them (the Reddy brothers). He wants to retain his chair."
The legislative council was also adjourned for the day over the demand for a CBI probe. The Congress and JD-S members came to house with black stones wrapped around them as mark of protest against government`s refusal to agree for a CBI probe.
Yeddyurappa has refused to agree to a CBI probe saying that state Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde will conduct it.
"When we are asking Lok Ayukta to conduct the probe into illegal mining from 2003 onwards, where is the need for a CBI probe?" he asked, while speaking to reporters.
As the sit-in continued, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj briefed President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi of the stalemate in the assembly over the illegal mining issue and his decision to refer to the Election Commission a petition seeking disqualification of the mine owners and ministers Reddy brothers for their alleged involvement.
"I have taken a serious view of the developments. The controversy is regarding only four or five ministers over their involvement in illegal mining. Ministers cannot indulge in this kind of corrupt practices. How can they be ministers?" Bhardwaj asked while speaking to told reporters in New Delhi after the meeting.
Bhardwaj said he will meet Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday to brief him about the situation in Karnataka.
Reacting strongly to Bhardwaj`s statement, Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, one of the three Reddy brothers, said: "If he (Bhardwaj) has said that, we will take legal action. We will consult our legal experts and proceed further. It will show if he is indulging in it or us."
Senior BJP leaders also alleged that Bharadwaj was trying to "destabilise" its government in Karnataka and said it would ask the president to "check" him.
In New Delhi, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said the governor, "a Congress loyalist", was campaigning against the BJP and had no right to intervene in the democratically elected government`s functioning.
"Mr. Bharadwaj should decide once and for all whether he is he holding a constitutional post or he is a rank agent of the Congress party... The kind of statement he has made, we take strong offence to it and we will demand from the president of India to `please check your governor`," Prasad said.
Yeddyurappa told the assembly last week that since 2003, over 30 million tonnes of iron ore was illegally exported from Karnataka. The Congress claims it is a scam of Rs. 600 billion.