Speaker says will expunge remark, Oppn fishes in troubled waters

Opposition MLAs protest in the Assembly as papers flung in the air on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Opposition MLAs protest in the Assembly as papers flung in the air on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

*House adjourned twice amid free-for-all situation
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Jan 31: The PDP-BJP coalition partners were today caught in a piquant situation with yesterday’s remarks of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that those targeting Article 35-A and through it Article 370 of the Constitution of India were anti-nationals, which didn’t go well with the BJP, one of whose MLA, Rajiv Jasrotia sought that the remark should be expunged and Speaker Kavinder Gupta ruling that he would examine the record and expunge the word ‘anti-national’ if it would have been used.
Entire Opposition was quick to exploit the situation and created unprecedented pandemonium in the Legislative Assembly forcing Gupta to adjourn the House twice. However, as the adjournments failed to have any impact, the Speaker rushed through the Legislative business and adjourned the House for the day around 12.45 pm, about 45 minutes ahead of the schedule. The Opposition was of the view that since Mehbooba is Leader of the House, her remarks can’t be expunged.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not present in the Assembly during pandemonium in which Opposition MLAs of National Conference and Congress trooped into Well of the House, tore off papers, flung them in the air and resorted to massive sloganeering against PDP, BJP and RSS, which were countered by the BJP members with slogans against NC and Congress, leading to complete chaos in the House repeatedly. The PDP members, however, maintained silence.
While both the coalition partners were already on different page on Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, they had decided to maintain status quo on it in their Agenda of Alliance. The fresh stalemate over the issue today led to cancellation of the Cabinet meeting, which was scheduled to be held at 3 pm to take up bills to be introduced in the Assembly.
Right from the beginning of today’s proceedings in the House, Independent MLA from Udhampur Pawan Gupta was on his toes, carrying a banner and moving near the Well, calling upon the BJP members to clarify their position on the Chief Minister’s remarks. He said BJP’s tall leaders like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have been dubbed as `anti-national’ by Mehbooba Mufti with her remarks that those opposing Article 370 were anti-nationals. After 10 minutes uproar, Gupta was marshaled out of the Assembly on the Speaker’s direction.
During Zero Hour at about 11.15 am, BJP MLA from Kathua Rajiv Jasrotia raised the issue of the remarks made by the Chief Minister yesterday while replying to debate on the grants of her Departments in the Legislative Assembly. He said every party has its own ideology.
“While some parties favoured autonomy, others called for self-rule. However, the BJP has its own ideology with tall Jan Sangh leaders like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyaya openly advocating for abrogation of Article 370,” he said, adding that word ‘anti-national’ used for opponents of the Article is not appropriate and should be expunged from the record.
The Speaker announced that the word ‘anti-national’ has been expunged from the record.
However, with entire Opposition on their feet, exploiting PDP-BJP differences, and maintaining that remarks of the Chief Minister, who happens to be Leader of the House can’t be expunged, Kavinder Gupta adjourned the House for 15 minutes. He had to adjourn the House twice for 15 minutes though the adjournments lasted more than half an hour, both the times.
After the first adjournment, the Speaker said he hasn’t expunged the remarks (of the Chief Minister).
“Yesterday’s proceedings of the House haven’t reached me so far. When the proceedings come, I will examine them. However, if the word ‘anti-national’ would have been used, it will be expunged,” he maintained.
Soon after the Speaker’s remarks, which came after BJP MLA from Kathua, Rajiv Jasrotia’s statement during Zero Hour, almost entire Opposition was on their feet with a number of NC and Congress MLAs trooping into Well of the House
NC MLA Devender Singh Rana, who was in the Well, was of the view that the remarks of Leader of the House can’t be expunged.
“The Chief Minister is the Leader of the House. How can you expunge her remarks?”, he asked.
Amidst massive uproar in the House, the Speaker adjourned the House for 15 minutes.
However, when the House met after about 35 minutes, the Speaker said every party has its own agenda-be it the National Conference, PDP and BJP. “But inside the House I act as the Speaker”. He maintained that he would examine yesterday’s proceedings and if the word anti-national was used, it would be expunged.
Again, entire Opposition was on their feet. NC Legislature Party leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, pointing towards the Chair, said you have expunged the remarks.
“This is for the first time that remarks of Leader of the House have been expunged. This will set wrong precedent, never heard of. Let the Leader (the Chief Minister) comes here and clarify her position,” Omar said. However, the Chief Minister didn’t join the House proceedings.
The Opposition MLAs said it was Constitutional issue and both the parties were required to clarify their position. They added that sanctity and dignity of the House is at stake. Some of the Opposition MLAs shouted that this amounted to no-confidence in the Chief Minister by one of the ally.
The National Conference and Congress MLAs charged that expunging remarks of the Chief Minister means that the two coalition partners didn’t trust each other.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Nawang Rigzin Jora also questioned the expunging of remarks while Independent MLA Pawan Gupta charged that entire BJP has been branded as ‘anti-national’ by the Chief Minister.
Amidst massive uproar, heated exchanges between BJP and Opposition members and total chaos with NC and Congress MLAs shouting slogans against PDP, BJP and RSS and BJP countering them with raising slogans against Opposition parties, the Speaker adjourned the House again within eight minutes of proceedings.
While the Speaker adjourned the House for 15 minutes, it met after over half an hour and again there was similar ruckus. The Speaker went through the legislative business scheduled for the day within 10 minutes and adjourned the House for the day at 12.45 pm, about 45 minutes ahead of the schedule.
The BJP MLAs also shouted ‘BJP Zindabad’ and ‘RSS Zindabad’ in the House to counter Opposition slogans against BJP, RSS and Nagpur, the RSS Headquarters.
Later, the NC and Congress MLAs took out protest march inside the Civil Secretariat shouting slogans against the Government and staged dharna outside the Chief Minister’s Secretariat.
Describing the situation as unprecedented, they said this was for the first time when remarks of the Chief Minister have been expunged by the Speaker. “We want the Chief Minister to clear her stand and straightway proceed to the Governor’s House and offer her resignation,” they said.
Speaking to reporters after the adjournment of the Assembly, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh said the “issueless Opposition was trying to polarize the situation for the past two years on some of the issues including re-settlement of Kashmiri Pandits, construction of Sainik Colonies, beef and Hurriyat Conference etc”.
Dr Singh said the BJP from the very beginning has maintained and accepted that the two coalition partners have difference of opinion on some issues but they have come together to form the Government on the basis of Agenda of Alliance.
“We have agenda of governance. Let the Opposition discuss our governance agenda,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.
NC Jammu provincial chief Devender Rana said, “It is unexpected and unseen in history that the Speaker has expunged the remarks of the CM on the demand of BJP MLA. “The Government has lost the confidence as the demand came from BJP,” he said and demanded Mehbooba’s resignation, saying “she should resign to save the dignity of the House and other Ministers should also resign or clear their stand because their position has become untenable in the House.”
Leader of Congress Legislative Party (CLP) Nawang Rigzin Jora told reporters that Mehbooba’s remarks were now in the Assembly records and everybody knows who were the ones opposing Article 370.
“One member of BJP today stood in the House and called for expunging the CM’s remark from records of Assembly. Speaker gave directions that it should be expunged. This is first act of this type in the history of Assembly,” Jora said.
“Either CM should come to House and clear her stand by taking back the words or she must resign. This has happened for the first time that the Speaker has directed to expunge the remarks of a Leader of the House,” Jora said.
CPI(M) MLA M Y Tarigami said the Speaker’s directive is not right and the Chief Minister should make a statement and clear her stand on the floor of the House as it a matter of alliance and stability of the Government.
“What happened in the House is a reflection of political uncertainty and it is important for the Government to clear its stand,” Tarigami said.
Jasrotia questioned what Mehbooba meant by her statement. “BJP’s core ideology is Article 370 and scrapping it will only fully integrate the State with the country,” he said.
Independent MLA Pawan Gupta, who was a Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Government was marshaled out of Assembly during the Question Hour after he protested against Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks that tampering with Article 370 was an “anti-national” act.
As Jammu and Kashmir Assembly began its proceeding this morning, Gupta raised the issue and hit out the BJP for “remaining silent”. He carried a banner asking BJP-PDP Government to tender an apology for the CM’s “derogatory” remarks and walked into the Well of the House raising slogans against BJP.
“BJP should tell the Nation whether speaking against Article 370 is anti-national. Whether Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee are anti nationals,” the Udhampur MLA said in the House.
After few minutes of uproarious scenes, he was marshaled out of the House on the direction of the Speaker.
Talking to reporters, Gupta later said, “Wither the Government should apologize for its statement or withdraw it”.
“I want to know the stand of BJP. I demanded that a debate should be held on Article 370 on the floor of this Assembly and BJP should come clean on this,” he said.
“People of Jammu and India want to know whether BJP is supporting Article 370 or is against it. BJP’s double speak has been exposed now. They have sold their core ideology for power,” Gupta said.
Gupta said that revocation of Article 370 was the main demand of BJP since its leaders like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya had sacrificed their lives for it.
“Mehbooba saying that those raising issue of abrogation of Article 370 are anti-nationals means BJP is anti-national but it is very unfortunate that none of the MLAs from the saffron party bothered to oppose the statement,” Gupta said.

Budget passed during protests
The Legislative Assembly today passed budget for 2017-18 and supplementary grants for 2016-17 amidst massive uproar by the Opposition members on differences between the coalition partners over the Chief Minister’s remarks.
As the order was not restored in the House even after two adjournments, Speaker Kavinder Gupta rushed through the legislative business, scheduled for the day amidst pandemonium in the House with massive slogan
Budget passed
during protests
shouting from the Opposition members from Well of the House.
Some papers were laid on table of the House and two amendment bills introduced by the Ministers amidst ruckus.
The Speaker then went ahead with passing of Appropriation Bills-the budget for 2017-18 and supplementary grants for 2016-17 amidst uproar.
Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu moved the two bills. The Watch and Ward staff of the Assembly had to form a shield around the treasury benches including the Finance Minister as the Opposition members were trying to disrupt the speech.
Amidst loud `Yes’ by the treasury benches, the budget and supplementary grants were passed in the Assembly within five minutes.