Nine Opposition legislators — five from Shiv Sena and four from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — have been suspended for disturbing finance minister Ajit Pawar when he was presenting the state budget on Wednesday.
The punitive action has put the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government on a collision course with the Opposition announcing that they will boycott the legislative proceedings on Friday.
Backed by the Congress-NCP's majority, the Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution to suspend the nine members of the state Legislative Assembly (MLAs) until December 31.
The suspended legislators —Vinod Ghosalkar, Pratap Sarnaik, Eknath Shinde, Vijay Shivtare and Ravindra Waikar from the Sena and Girish Mahajan, Sardar Tara Singh, Vijay Deshmukh and Harish Pimple from the BJP — have been charged with breaching the rules.
On Wednesday, before Pawar started presenting the state budget, the Opposition raised a demand to appoint MLAs as head of local committees for the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, which provides financial assistance to the destitute, widows and the elderly with no families.
When the government did not respond, members of the Opposition started shouting anti-government slogans and continued to do so until Pawar ended his speech.
Following the suspension announcement, the Opposition in both Houses stalled Thursday's proceedings.
Opposition leader in the Assembly, Eknath Khadse, slammed the ruling party for denying “natural justice” to the suspended MLAs.
“We will not work in both Houses on Friday. We will also bring a no-confidence motion against deputy speaker Vasant Purke in the Assembly at a suitable time,” he said.
Sources close to the parliamentary affairs minister, Harshvardhan Patil, said the ruling party had handpicked the names for punitive action.
“We have got the most active MLAs,” said a Congress legislator, requesting anonymity due to protocol reasons.
Justifying the suspension, minister of state for urban development Bhaskar Jadhav, of the NCP, said: “We don’t spare anyone who does not behave himself in the House.”
State Congress general secretary Sanjay Dutt said: “The Opposition used a sacrosanct moment of budget presentation to score brownie points over the ruling party.”
In November 2009, four Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislators had been suspended for assaulting Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi when he had refused to take the oath of office in Marathi.
Eight months later their suspension was revoked.