‘I have nothing to do with demolition; officials of DPAR have done it’
On World Environment Day on Wednesday, Minister for Forests and Environment B. Ramanath Rai pleaded innocence in the Legislative Assembly with regard to demolition of a wall in the chamber allotted to him in the Vidhana Soudha.
Replying to the Opposition’s charge, Mr. Rai said: “I have not even entered the chamber allotted to me. I am not a believer in Vaastu and I have not instructed any official to demolish the wall between the chamber and a room allotted to my personal staff.”
The wall between rooms 304 and 305, facing the Karnataka High Court, was found demolished on Tuesday.
“I don’t have a house either in Bangalore or Mangalore city. So I requested the Chief Minister to allot me a big office,” Mr. Rai said.
The Minister, who was wearing a green shirt on the occasion of World Environment Day, had a tough task convincing Opposition members about his non-involvement in the demolition.
“I am not responsible for the demolition of the wall. The officials of the Department of Personal Administration and Reforms (DPAR) have changed the structure of the room,” Mr. Rai said.
Call for apology
As soon as the House commenced proceedings, the former Chief Minister and Karnataka Janata Paksha chief B.S. Yeddyurappa demanded an apology from the Minister for his “illegal” act. “This is not the house of the Minister for him to change the structure as he wants. The Vidhana Soudha, built by Kengal Hanumanthaiya, has its own history.”
The former Ministers R. Ashok and Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri (BJP) condemned the act and demanded suspension of officials who were responsible for the demolition.
The Janata Dal (Secular), the Bharatiya Janata Party and KJP members urged Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa to warn Ministers not to alter the structure of the chambers allotted to them in the State Secretariat.
Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra also promised that steps would be taken to protect the heritage of the building.
Demolishing walls in the chambers of power is not new. The former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar’s political secretary Shankar Patil Munekoppa had demolished a portion of the wall of rooms 340 and 340A in the Vidhana Soudha.
Both Mr. Shettar and the former Public Works Minister C.M. Udasi had stopped the move and got the wall restored.
Nanaiah leads attack
In the Legislative Council, Janata Dal (Secular) floor leader M.C. Nanaiah led the attack against Mr. Rai, saying his act amounted to “disfiguring” a heritage structure. Mr. Nanaiah, who had tabled a private member’s Bill seeking to prevent structural modifications to prominent government buildings for reasons like Vaastu, expressed dissatisfaction that the Bill was yet to come up for discussion though it was submitted nearly two years ago.
But, his remarks did not sit well with Congress members, who wondered whether it was wrong to alter an old structure to suit present-day requirements. Launching a counter attack, Congress member R.V. Venkatesh accused Mr. Nanaiah of raising the issue of demolition for publicity. This triggered a heated debate between the Congress and the Opposition leading Mr. Nanaiah to remark: “Let them (Ministers) demolish the Vidhana Soudha itself if they think it will help them.”
However, the situation was brought under control after Mr. Venkatesh apologised to Mr. Nanaiah for his remark.
In the absence of Mr. Rai, Higher Education Minister R.V. Deshpande assured the House that the demolition would be stopped immediately and no such works would be allowed in future.