Major row as Speaker, Chairman ‘attend’ PDP-BJP strategy meet

Gupta, Inayat say no politics discussed
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Jan 4: A major controversy has erupted over participation of Legislative Council Chairman Haji Inayat Ali and Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta in the dinner meeting of PDP-BJP Alliance that was convened by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last night, to discuss the Government strategy for budget session of the Legislature with National Conference and Congress mulling bringing “no confidence motion’’ against the two Presiding Officers.
However, the Chairman and the Speaker stated that they were not part of the political meeting and had gone there for “different reasons’’.
In the meeting, which was attended by majority of Ministers, MLAs and MLCs of both the Alliance partners, PDP and BJP, the Government gave final touch to its strategy for 40-day long budget session of the Legislature, which started on stormy note on January 2 with Opposition walking-out of Governor’s Address to joint session of Legislature and on January 3, they stayed away from proceedings of the House after walk-out when their adjournment motions were not admitted.
Speaker Kavinder Gupta told the Excelsior that he had gone to dinner meeting of the Chief Minister and “there was no political talk’’.
“It was just a dinner meeting, hosted by Mehbooba Mufti,’’ he remarked.
Legislative Council Chairman Haji Inayat Ali said he had gone to the Chief Minister’s residence to convey that he would attend function in Jammu instead of Srinagar on second death anniversary of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
“I also wanted to convey my gratitude to Mehbooba Mufti on Central Government approval for Zojila tunnel,’’ he said.
However, both Speaker and Chairman were in safe zone. Even if the combined opposition brings no-confidence motion against the two Presiding Officers in their respective Houses, it will fall flat as the Government has nearly two-third majority in both Assembly and Council.
Former Speaker and National Conference MLA Mohammad Akbar Lone said: “the PDP and BJP have openly politicized the offices of the Speaker and the Chairman and I want both of them to quit their offices for openly affiliating with their political parties though they are supposed to be completely apolitical while serving as the Presiding Officers’’.
Lone said if the Speaker don’t quit, the National Conference proposed to bring ‘‘no confidence motion’’ against him as he has now established that he was taking directions from PDP and BJP while running the House, which was not expected of him.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rigzin Jora said the Congress was working out joint strategy with the National Conference on “politicization of the offices’’ of the Speaker and the Chairman by the PDP-BJP Government.
“We are mulling to table no confidence motion against both the Presiding Officers,’’ Jora said.
National Conference MLA Devender Singh Rana observed that this has never happened in the past as the Presiding Officer are expected to be “neutral and apolitical’’.
“This Government is conveniently demolishing the institutions of credibility. Those, who are the Presiding Officers, must ensure that credibility and dignity of the institutions is maintained in highest traditions of Parliamentary democracy. The Presiding Officers must take a cue from career of Som Nath Chatterjee,’’ Rana said.
However, the Alliance leaders were not worried about the proposed “no confidence motion’’ against the Speaker and the Chairman by the Opposition.
“Both the Presiding Officers have maintained credibility of the Chair and have been giving adequate, or even more, time to the Opposition members in both the Houses. They are performing their task very well. If any party moves the ‘no confidence motion’ against them, it will be defeated on floor of the House as we have majority,’’ an Alliance leader told the Excelsior.
Meanwhile, insiders said, the PDP and BJP decided to maintain coordination inside both Houses of the Legislature despite provocations by the Opposition National Conference, Congress and other groups and must not get provoked by the “propaganda’’.
The Alliance leaders including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh stressed that the PDP and BJP legislators in both the Houses should highlight achievements of the Government of past three years and “future plans’’ for next three years to counter the Opposition propaganda of “failure of the Government’’.
There was unanimous view that the Opposition has “no major issues’’ and were trying to “make an issue out of nothing’’. Therefore, the Government wouldn’t shy away from any kind of debate the Opposition wants but it must be held within the Rules and timing prescribed by the Presiding Officers, the Alliance leader observed.
They were of the view that ruling party legislators have every right to raise any issues in the Legislature but they shouldn’t make “deliberate attempts’’ to embarrass the Government.


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