Politics in the state touched new lows in one of the most important and chaotic sessions of the state legislature yesterday; the day not only saw opposition members storming the well and creating a ruckus inside the house, but also scenes of the governor being heckled and injured
A series of incidents within and outside the state assembly earned yesterday’s session the distinction of being one of the most chaotic in the state legislature’s storied history.
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Not only did the ruling and opposition parties disagree on the manner in which the trust vote was conducted, leading to a ruckus in the Assembly, opposition leaders also allegedly gheraoed and heckled the governor before he could even enter the building. Following this, two-year suspensions were handed down to five MLAs at the very beginning of their new five-year terms.
The third-day of the Assembly session began yesterday with a series of crucial items on the agenda, including election of the Speaker, moving of the confidence motion, appointment of the leader of the opposition and an address by the governor to a joint sitting of both houses of the state legislature.
Events that had taken place the previous night would turn out to play a key role in shaping how the day played out.
According to highly placed sources, a section of BJP and Sena leaders were trying to hammer out a formula for the parties to be in the government, as allies and discussions were on till 2 am on Wednesday. But, the efforts failed when a couple of senior Sena leaders did not approve of the formula despite a majority of the party legislators being in favour of joining hands with the BJP, sources said.
Senior Sena leader Ramdas Kadam then announced the failure of talks, as well as the party’s decision to sit in the opposition. But, as part of the consensus reached between the ruling party and the opposition parties, Sena and Congress agreed to withdraw their candidates from the race for Speaker, paving the way for BJP candidate Haribhau Bagde’s unopposed election to the post
Thus, while the day began with some semblance of consensus with Bagde’s election, things quickly took a turn for the worse when the new Speaker decided to set aside agenda item no 2 — dealing with the appointment of the leader of the opposition — and said agenda item no 3 — the trust vote — should precede it.
This led to chaos as members of the Congress and the Shiv Sena, both of whom had staked claim to the post, rushed to the well of the house. They demanded an immediate decision on the issue, but Bagde put the confidence motion — moved by the BJP’s Ashish Shelar — to vote, saying it was important as the post of leader of opposition could not be decided in the absence of a valid government.
While this ruckus was on, the Speaker called for the voice vote and declared the confidence motion passed even before some members from the Congress and Shiv Sena — especially those who were still in the well, arguing about the LoP post — could realise what was happening.
Abdul Sattar, Rahul Bondre, Jaikumar Gore, Virendra Jagtap and Amar Kale, the five Congress MLAs who were suspended. PICS/Pradeep Dhivar
Congress and Sena leaders then demanded a division of votes, but the Speaker rejected the demand, saying it had
come late as the motion had already passed. Sena members appeared confused and staged a walkout, and the House was adjourned for five minutes. Members from the NCP, meanwhile, were sitting silently.
When the House convened again, Speaker Haribhau Bagde appointed Sena’s group leader in the Assembly, Eknath Shinde, the leader of the opposition. But, even while the motion to congratulate Shinde was on, opposition leaders, including him, continued to protest the hurry with which the Speaker had declared the confidence motion passed. They also protested against Bagde’s refusal to accede to their demand for division of votes.
The Speaker, however, refused to budge and the house was adjourned again, ahead of the joint sitting, which was supposed to be addressed by Governor Chennamaneni Vidgyasagar Rao.
Later, just ahead of the governor’s arrival, almost all the legislators of the Congress and the Shiv Sena gathered at the porch of Vidhan Bhavan to register their protest over the ‘undemocratic way’ in which the trust vote was won by
While Congress members including MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre, leader of Congress legislature party Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan blocked the stairway at the porch, Shiv Sena members led by LoP Eknath Shinde and Diwakar Raote rushed to the main entrance, giving security staff a hard time. When the governor reached the premises, his cavalcade was gheraoed by Sena members.
The livid Sena members briefed the governor about the impasse after stopping his car, and it took seven minutes for him to reach the central hall of the Vidhan Bhavan, where he was supposed to deliver his address. When Rao was being escorted up the stairway, Congress members allegedly manhandled him. Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse alleged the governor’s left hand was injured in the fracas.
Security personnel rushed a doctor to treat the governor, but he refused. This led to a nine-minute delay in Rao beginning his address. Even during the address. Congress members engaged in slogan shouting, including ‘Chale jao, chale jao, Rajyapal chale jao’ (Go away, governor). They staged a walkout before the speech got over.
When the state Assembly resumed business after the governor’s address, Eknath Khadse moved a motion to suspend 12 members for their alleged involvement in the scuffle and at the entrance when the governor had arrived.
He also stunned the House by saying video footage was available in which Congress members could be seen manhandling the Governor. A debate followed, with two adjournments.
Appeals by Leader of Opposition Eknath Shinde, Congress leader Vikhe Patil, NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal, and PWP member Ganpatrao Deshmukh to show mercy towards the members did not cut much ice, and the government moved a motion to suspend five Congress members — Abdul Sattar, Rahul Bondre, Jaikumar Gore, Amar Kale and Virendra Jagtap for two years.