Mics fly, MLAs faint in Kerala Assembly
Chaos in the Kerala Assembly as finance minister K M Mani presents the budget on Friday.(Source: PTI)
A bid to prevent Kerala finance minister K M Mani from presenting the budget turned ugly on Friday as legislators went on a rampage in the Assembly. Nine people were injured and the Speaker’s chamber was vandalised in the chaos.
However, Mani still tabled the budget guarded by the Assembly security staff and legislators of the ruling UDF.
Outside, workers of the LDF and BJP’s youth wing, Yuva Morcha, who had camped there since Thursday night, clashed with the police.
The CPM-led Opposition had threatened to prevent Mani from presenting the budget as he is facing bribery charges in the bar licence scandal. Tension had been building up in the Assembly since Thursday night as LDF legislators stayed in the well of the assembly hall. This forced Mani, his cabinet colleagues and a section of the ruling legislators to stay in the Assembly overnight.
By 8 am, the LDF members started raising slogans against Mani. They sat in the well of the House, with women legislators positioning themselves in front of the chair where Mani usually sits. But the ruling Congress outwitted them by giving a letter to the Speaker, seeking to shift Mani’s seat to a back row.
A few minutes before 9 am, when the budget presentation was set to begin, a group of LDF legislators led by politburo members M A Baby and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan made their way to the Speaker’s dais. They vandalised the computer and threw away his mic and stationery. His chair, too, was lifted above the railing and thrown away.
A section of young CPM legislators meanwhile moved to the door near the Speaker’s chamber, anticipating that Mani would enter through there. The Assembly security staff also positioned themselves there to ensure a safe passage for Mani as well as for Speaker N Sakthan. This led to scuffles between the Opposition members and the security staff. Tension mounted when legislators of the ruling party also stormed into the well.
But Mani entered the House through another door, while the Speaker sneaked in with the help of security staff. A chair had to be brought for him, and since there was no mic, he gestured to Mani to present the budget.
“It was the first time in the House that the Speaker was not allowed to enter. Since the legislators were sitting on my table, I had to stand up and gesture to the minster to start his speech,” said Sakthan.
After reading the budget for five minutes without a mic, Mani declared that he was tabling the budget before the Assembly. The situation escalated when Opposition members trying to reach Mani were prevented by ruling legislators. CPM legislator V Shivankutty was seen walking on the tables, with his dhoti rolled up above the knee.
Congress legislator Shivadasan Nair alleged that LDF legislator Jameela Prakasham bit him on the shoulder. Later, Nair showed a bruise mark on his shoulder, while Prakasham said she had been attacked by him. Other women legislators from the LDF, K K Lathika and K S Sulekha, also claimed they were shoved by ruling legislators.
Shivankutty, who walked on the tables trying to clamber over the shoulders of security staff to reach Mani, fainted suddenly. He was lying on the table till a doctor rushed in and he was taken to the hospital. Also collapsed on a table was CPI legislator K Ajith. A few other Opposition legislators also fell on the floor in the chaos and had to be taken to the hospital.
The ruling front legislators celebrated their “victory” by hugging Mani and distributing ladoos. As the Assembly was adjourned for the day, Mani moved to the media room at the Assembly complex to read out the budget speech.
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan claimed 20 Opposition legislators were injured in the “attack” by security staff and ruling front members. “The speaker was not present on the dais. He had given some gestures to the minister to present the budget. Mani was seen blathering something. We will not accept this Budget. The LDF will continue the agitation against Mani,” he said.
Sakthan refuted the Opposition’s claim by saying, “Since there was no mic, I gave the gesture. The Assembly secretariat has filed a complaint against the legislators for vandalising the Speaker’s dais,” he said.
While the situation within the Assembly eventually returned to normal, 30 persons were injured as workers of the LDF and Yuva Morcha clashed with the police outside. They also torched police vehicles across the city.
The LDF coordination committee, which met in the afternoon, decided to approach the governor, pointing out the procedural lapses in the budget presentation. The LDF also called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in the state on Saturday.
Source:: Indian Express