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Updated: July 29, 2010 02:22 IST

Lottery row rocks Kerala Assembly

Special Correspondent
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Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac
The Hindu Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac

The lottery row triggered noisy scenes in the Kerala Assembly for the second day on Wednesday with the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) engaging Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac in a heated debate and, at one point of time, barging into the well of the House taking umbrage at a remark of his about Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy.

The situation was defused by Speaker K. Radhakrishnan who removed Dr. Isaac's remark from the records of the House, but the Finance Minister himself dug in and took the position that he would not budge from the stand he had taken in the House on Tuesday when the Opposition first raised charges of corruption in connection with the collection of advance tax for out-of-State lotteries. What the Opposition wanted, he said, was to create a smokescreen with its allegation and that the government was not going to oblige it with a comprehensive inquiry. The issue was raised by the Opposition Leader who wanted to know under what circumstances the Finance Minister had announced outside the House about the conduct of a departmental inquiry into the acceptance of advance tax by the Assistant Commissioner, Commercial Taxes, Palakkad, in violation of the relevant norms. The Minister, he alleged, had announced the inquiry after telling the House that there was no question of holding any inquiry into the Opposition charges. Dr. Isaac replied that he had only asked the Taxes Secretary to see if there was any violation of the relevant norms.

Verbal duel

What ensued was a veritable verbal duel between the two. While the Finance Minister accused the Congress of trying to rake up a controversy knowing full well that the State had little power to rein in the lottery mafia, the Opposition Leader said the people of Kerala knew well who was closer to the lottery lobby and had accepted money from them. The people, he said, had not forgotten the acceptance of Rs. 2 crore from lottery barons by the CPI(M) and asked what deterred the government from ordering a comprehensive inquiry into the issue.

The Finance Minister retorted that the Opposition was raising baseless allegations without any evidence and pushing for a probe so that it could use it as a campaign plank later. Then came Dr. Isaac's remark about the level to which the Opposition Leader had gone to raise the allegations. Enraged by the remark, several backbenchers from the Opposition rushed into the well of the House seeking an apology from him. Confusion prevailed for some time with the Opposition members arguing with the Chair.

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