) Bhubaneswar, Nov 28 (PTI) Opposition parties stalled the proceedings of the Odisha Assembly repeatedly on Thursday demanding resignation of Tourism Minister J P Panigrahi for taking two women during an official trip to Hyderabad.
Odisha government clarified that no money was spent for the two women from the state exchequer.
Making a statement in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister B K Arukha said Panigrahi had visited Hyderabad on an official programme last month.
'But, there has been no expenditure from the state exchequre for others,' Arukha said.
Earlier, Speaker S N Patro in a ruling had directed the government to make a statement on the tourism minister's visit to Hyderabad after opposition Congress members stalled the proceedings demanding resignation of Panigrahi.
They alleged that the minister had taken a woman and her daughter along with him to Hyderabad where they stayed in a luxury hotel. They also alleged that the minister entertained the two women with public money.
Panigrahi, however, refuted the allegation saying he had not violated any law.
'I have not violated any rule. Let me clarify that not a single pie has been spent from the state exchequer,' the minister told reporters outside the House.
The issue, however, kept the House on boil as the opposition members disrupted the proceedings and the speaker adjourned it several times.
The state government came under sharp attack both inside and outside the Assembly over Panigrahi's Hyderabad visit with Congress demanding his resignation and BJP seeking a clarification from him.
The issue was first raised by Leader of Opposition Pradipta Kumar Naik of the BJP. He demanded a clarification from Panigrahi on the matter.
Congress members, on the other hand stepped up their demand, rushed to the well of the House, created ruckus and forced the speaker to adjourn the House several times.
Congress legislator Santosh Singh Saluja and Suresh Routray strongly denounced the minister's alleged action and demanded his removal from the council of ministers.
As the speaker did not pay any heed to the demand, angry Congress law makers led by Taraprasad Bahinipati attempted to climb his podium and snatched away his mike.
Routray ridiculed the minister for taking the two women to an official programme.
Terming Panigrahi's alleged activities as 'not acceptable', Saluja said, 'Sarathi (self-styled godman) had gone to Hyderabad with one woman and was sent to jail. The same law should be applied to the minister who took two women along with him to Hyderabad.' Saluja said the women, a 47-year-old woman and her 25-year-old daughter, had accompanied the minister and stayed in a luxury hotel in Hyderabad.
'The private secretary of the minister had booked tickets for the women and arranged for their stay in the hotel,' he told the Assembly.
The issue triggered uproar outside the Assembly and state BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty sought to know the identity of the two women who had allegedly accompanied the minister and their links with his department.
Mohanty also demanded a clarification from either Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik or Panigrahi on the issue. PTI AAM SKN KK KK