Assembly deadlock nears end with cop's suspension

Going by the current developments related to the stalemate in the state legislature following the incident of a traffic cop beaten up by MLAs in Vidhan Bhavan, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan seemed to be facing a tough challenge.

API Sachin Suryavanshi

On Monday, when the state assembly and state council took up the agenda, business was again disrupted as members started raising questions over the government’s response to their demand of suspending API Sachin Suryavanshi. While Congress and NCP legislators were aggressive over the issue, Opposition members demanded revocation of suspension of three MLAs not named in the FIR by the API, and not arrested by the police.

Amid the din, the state assembly saw five adjournments yesterday. Several meetings took place outside the house. The first one had to be cancelled as no one from the government was present, raising the Opposition’s hackles. The second meeting took place where Speaker Dilip Walse Patil, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan Patil, Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse and other senior members were present.

During the meeting it was decided to appoint a committee under senior PWP MLA Ganpatrao Deshmukh to probe the entire episode from the brawl that ensued after the API booked MLA Kshitij Thakur for speeding on the sea link and the subsequent thrashing he received by MLAs inside Vidhan Bhavan, leading to the suspension of five MLAs.

The committee, comprising six senior members each from Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS, will go through the CCTV footage of the events at sea link and Vidhan Bhavan. Before it was even announced in the state assembly, the decision was opposed by ruling party MLAs who feared that the report of the committee, headed by an Opposition member, would go against them.

Meanwhile, another important meeting took place at the chief minister’s office where senior MLAs from Congress and NCP were present. Here, the CM faced a barrage of questions like why, being the leader of the house, he had not taken any initiative. “You can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to our demands, but you have to say something,” the angry MLAs said. “If you say no, we will simply approve whatever proposals, bills and budgetary demands have been made without any discussions,” they reportedly told the CM.

Congress MLAs Sunil Kedar and Krishna Hegde and NCP MLA Jitendra Avhad and Shashikant Shinde raised these points, sources said. They were asking for the CM’s reaction to the issue, urging him to end the impasse. “The MLAs cannot be given two punishments for one wrong,” they said. During another meeting, exclusively of ministers, Industries Minister Narayan Rane raised questions over the state’s response to the demands of the MLAs.

While speaking on the issue in the state assembly, Kedar demanded action against senior cops for the affidavit filed by Crime Branch opposing the bail plea of MLAs Kshitij Thakur and Ram Kadam named in the FIR by the API. “It’s an insult to the speaker who controls the affairs in Vidhan Bhavan,” Kedar said. Police have opposed the bail plea, saying both the MLAs could tamper with CCTV footage.

At the state council, business was disrupted for another day when members raised the issue of their prestige, which “took a severe beating after the infamous episode involving MLAs and a cop”. The house saw an adjournment over the issue.

During the daylong developments at Vidhan Bhavan, a member of the anti-Chavan group was heard asking party members to stop the proceedings. Problems before the CM and Home Minister RR Patil compounded when MNS rebel MLA Harshwardhan Jadhav demanded action against police officials who had beaten him up a few years back. The state government finally succumbed to the pressure of legislators, and the home minister announced the API’s suspension until the outcome of the inquiry.

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