Monday, 16 May, 2022
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Bengal governor forced to give one-line speech to assembly, Telangana didn’t schedule address

Bengal Governor Dhankhar couldn't speak as BJP and TMC MLAs engaged in sloganeering. Telangana's Soundararajan unhappy as KCR govt decides not to have her address the assembly.

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Kolkata/Hyderabad: The customary governor’s address on the opening day of the budget session of a state assembly was mired in controversy Monday in West Bengal and Telangana. 

The governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, was unable to deliver his address at the Vidhan Sabha on the first day of the budget session, amid sloganeering, chaos and protests. Dhankhar read out just one sentence from his 25-page speech — which was barely heard in the hour-long ruckus — and left the assembly. 

Dhankhar appealed to members of the house to maintain decorum in the “temple of democracy”. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to Raj Bhavan after the chaos to offer the governor a ‘vote of thanks’ — something the CM has never done before. 

Late in the evening, Dhankhar’s official handle tweeted: “Perturbed at unwholesome turn of events in the assembly during Guv Address. More sad than hurt at the unexpected blockade attempt by lady Ministers & MLAs.Our culture tainted. Unprecedented-Marshal defied directive of the Chair. Temple of Democracy stood ravaged.”

In Telangana, meanwhile, the budget session of the state assembly commenced Monday without the customary governor’s address, and the incumbent, Tamilisai Soundararajan, expressed discontent over the state government’s decision to not have the governor’s address at the beginning of the session.

Telangana’s three BJP MLAs, Eatala Rajender, T. Raja Singh and Raghunandan Rao, who were protesting against the state government’s decision, were also suspended from the session just minutes after it began. 

State minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav sought the suspension, which was immediately accepted by Speaker Pocharam Srinivas Reddy.

Responding to criticism about skipping the governor’s address, the K. Chandrashekar Rao-led state government said the budget session was a continuation of the previous assembly session and not a fresh one, which is why the government felt that it can commence without the governor’s address.

The two episodes unfolded less than a week after Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari left the state legislature Thursday without completing his budget session speech amidst disruptive sloganeering by both opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition legislators. He left even before the national anthem was played. 

Also read: Jagdeep Dhankhar has few options, abdicating his duty in Bengal is not one of them

2nd time Dhankhar has been blocked

Legislators from the BJP, the principal opposition party in Bengal, stormed the well of the assembly Monday afternoon with placards to protest the alleged “poll rigging” in the recently concluded municipality elections in the state. 

The leader of the opposition, Suvendu Adhikari, was heard telling Governor Dhankhar, “TMC goons looted votes with the help of police, this was their manifesto, this is our protest”. 

Dhankhar asked Adhikari to get the BJP MLAs to return to their seats. 

However, in no time, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLAs began raising counter-slogans. At one point, they were heard raising slogans against the governor, whose appeal fell on deaf ears. 

Thereafter, both BJP and TMC MLAs were locked in fierce sloganeering, holding the House proceedings hostage. 

Almost half-an-hour into the session, Speaker Biman Banerjee of the TMC asked Vidhan Sabha officials to distribute the governor’s speech to all the members and consider it tabled and read.

A visibly disappointed Dhankhar said this move violated Article 176 of the Constitution (about the governor addressing the assembly before the first session of the year) and sought an adjournment of the House. 

The Speaker rejected the request, claiming that when the governor is in the chair of the assembly, the House cannot be adjourned.

The Governor was left with no option but just to read one line of the speech, which was barely heard amid the ruckus. “With these words, I leave the floor of this august house for further deliberations,” was all Dhankhar said. 

At one point, Dhankhar was unable to leave the House, as TMC MLAs blocked the doors in protest. 

Addressing the media at the assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “This looked pre-planned, the BJP intentionally didn’t want the governor to speak, as it would create a constitutional crisis.” 

“With folded hands I requested him (Dhankhar) to address the House. This was unprecedented, the BJP doesn’t follow any norms,” she alleged. 

Speaker Biman Banerjee and Dhankhar had held an hour-long meeting Sunday to discuss the Budget Session. At the meeting, Dhankhar had requested Biman Banerjee to allow live broadcast of his address to the House. However, the Speaker didn’t allow any cameras inside the House to record the proceedings for live telecast.

This is the second time that Dhankhar couldn’t deliver his speech to the assembly. 

In July 2021, during the first session of the newly formed House after the West Bengal assembly polls, Dhankhar could read only the first and last paragraphs of the 18-page long speech passed by the West Bengal cabinet and left the Vidhan Sabha in less than ten minutes. 

Back then, BJP MLAs had disrupted proceedings, protesting post-poll violence during the state elections. 

Telangana governor says govt promised address

Over in Telangana, Governor Soundararajan had issued a statement Sunday about the KCR government’s decision not to let her speak to the assembly.

“The government has in its wisdom convened the Budget Session from 7 March 2022, without the customary governor’s address as it is not a new session but a continuation of the earlier session. The House is meeting after five months. Under normal circumstances, when the House is convened after such a long interval, it is a new session, but the government has chosen to continue the earlier session,” Soundararajan, a former chief of the Tamil Nadu BJP before taking up this constitutional post, said. 

She added that the government had initially told her the session would start with her address.

However, according to State Legislature Secretary Narasimha Charyulu, the budget session is the second meeting of the ‘eighth session’, which was held between September and October last year, and was adjourned sine die.

“Ideally, when a session has come to an end, it should be prorogued and that did not happen last time (when the eight session took place). Would this mean that it is a constitutional breach? It is not,” senior political analyst Prof. Nageshwar Rao said. 

“A governor’s address is mandatory only in the first session of the year and every time a fresh session is convened. But the state government is calling this session a continuation of the previous one,” he added.

Rao, however, added that the governor’s address is a parliamentary tradition and the governor is also part of the legislature. 

The address gives a chance to look back at the government’s work in the past year, so it is necessary for the legislative system, democracy, government and opposition, Rao said.

The state BJP, along with the three suspended MLAs, called the state government’s move a “pre-prepared script”, and submitted a representation to the governor, asking her to advise the speaker to repeal the suspension. 

Tensions between TRS, BJP

The absence of the governor’s speech and the speedy suspension of the three BJP MLAs indicates a growing tension between KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the BJP, with the latter slowly trying to emerge as an opposition to TRS, say experts.

“They have invoked the Rajya Sabha principle of anyone coming into the well (of the House) being suspended and that is how they did it. But, these kinds of suspensions are not healthy,” political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told ThePrint. 

“Politically, it is also an indication of the growing rift between TRS and BJP. Even KCR’s focus and attacks on Modi has more to do with curtailing the BJP in state,” he added.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: Smarting over poll losses & wary of BJP threat in Telangana, KCR turns heat on Modi



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