The Bharatiya Janata Party legislators on Thursday walked out of the assembly budget session after the Congress government failed to give a satisfactory answer to the Opposition’s charge that chief minister Harish Rawat was kept in the dark about distributing cabinet-level responsibilities.
Leader of Opposition Ajay Bhatt alleged that the chief secretary in his order on February 25, 2016, stated that various departments apportioned and approved 300 cabinet-level responsibilities for ruling party legislators without seeking the chief minister’s approval, which is a must.
But there is no clarity on who gave the go-ahead to apportion the posts, which includes chairmanship of various boards and corporations. The posts, in most states, are distributed by the chief minister among his party members as a reward for loyalty or to quell dissent.
As soon as the House assembled on Thursday morning, Bhatt demanded a debate under rule 310 which allows adjournment motion -- a rarely used procedure that sets aside the normal business of the House for discussing a matter of great public importance.
“The cabinet-level responsibilities being distributed by the (Congress) government without the chief minister’s approval is serious,” Bhatt said, citing an order of chief secretary Satrughna Singh issued to the confidential department last month.
“The top official also asked the confidential department to submit the list of all such departments,” Bhatt said. The Speaker said the Question Hour was not fit for debate, and assured the Opposition of a discussion during the Zero Hour.
Bhatt resumed his demand as the Zero Hour began, but the Speaker said the Opposition can debate only under Rule 58, which allows a member to call the attention of a minister to any matter of urgent public importance and the minister may make a brief statement or promise to reply later.
Bhatt, however, agreed to the Chair’s proposal and said, “Under the law, the cabinet-level responsibilities can’t be distributed without the chief minister’s permission. Who is running this state…We want to know how many people are misusing the post of chief minister,” Bhatt said, adding that even the chief secretary was bypassed in distribution of the red-beacon responsibilities. “This state is not anybody’s fiefdom. We can’t tolerate open loot of this state,” Bhatt added.
BJP’s chief whip Madan Kaushik demanded action against those who ignored the chief minister and the chief secretary. As the debate heated up, the Speaker refused further debate on the issue under Rule 58 of assembly proceedings. State parliamentary minister Indira Hridayesh said the chief secretary had to issue the order as the chief minister had no knowledge about distribution of the cabinet-level responsibilities.