Opposition BJP today demanded an immediate removal of Karnataka Forest Minister Ramanath Rai for allegedly directing a senior police official to take action against a local RSS functionary, following the recent group clashes at Kalladka in Dakshina Kannada district.
Raising the issue in the Assembly, the saffron party accused Rai, the minister in-charge of Dakshina Kannada district, of "instigating" and "influencing" the police investigation.
A video clip, in which Rai is purportedly seen directing Dakshina Kannada Superintendent of Police Bhushan Gulabrao Borase to arrest Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, has gone viral.
In the clip, Rai is purportedly heard saying, "Nothing will happen if Prabhakar Bhat is arrested. If hedelivers speeches, book a criminal case against him, book him under307 (the IPC section relating to murder)...He is not a big man."
Claiming that the BJP's aim was to "provoke" the Muslims, theminister is heard complaining that those with "RSS links" in the policeforce were yet to be removed.
Members of two communities had clashed at Kalladka last week in the aftermath of the stabbing of Hindu Jagarana Vedike district president Ratnakar Shetty and another person, leadingto prohibitory orders being imposed in the area.
Leader of Opposition Jagadish Shettar demanded to know under what authority the minister was "interfering" in the police probe.
"Is this how a responsible minister functions? He is clearly interfering in the police investigation. It is highly condemnable," he said.
Demanding Rai's immediate resignation or removal by the chief minister, Shettar quoted from media reports which claimed that as per the SP's probe, "narcotics-related activities" had led to the violence.
"When the SP is saying that an issue related to narcotics and drugs is the reason, how can a minister try to influence him to booka RSS leader? He should be ashamed. Such an irresponsible act by the minister has resulted in the recurrence of violence in the district," he alleged.
Other BJP members also took strong exception to the minister"issuing instructions" to the SP.
While Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri demanded that Rai be reprimanded for this, another MLA K G Bopaiah claimed that the minister was liable to face action under section 153(A) of the IPC and added that a complaint was submitted to the police against him.
Section 153(A), IPC pertains to promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc., and committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.
BJP Chief Whip in the Assembly Sunil claimed that it was clear that the minister's"only intention was to target the pro-Hindutva outfits", adding that the latter must be removed to ensure a fair investigation about the clashes.
Responding to the allegations, Rai said the entire video hadto be seen to understand the context.
As he sought to hold the Sangh Parivar "responsible" for the killing of a gram panchayat vice president in the district, the BJP members objected to it and demandedproof.
This resulted in a war of words between the members of the ruling party and the opposition.
Calling himself "secular" and saying that he would resign if it was proved that he had instigated a clash on the basis of religion, Rai said, "I only told the SP toact against those involved in instigating the people."
"If KalladkaPrabhakar Bhat was one of them, I asked the SP to arrest him as well. It was a generalstatement. I did not issue any instruction to the SP. I only askedhim to ensure peace and not to harass innocent people in the name ofinvestigation," he added.
Intervening, Speaker K B Koliwad said the home minister would give a reply on behalf of the government later.