Four of the 14 legislators who were suspended on Friday for protests over the theft of a Ganesha idol -- Vinod Ghosalkar, Pratap Sarnaik, Ram Shinde, and Vijay Shivtare -- had been suspended last March for causing disturbance during the budget speech. The suspension was revoked after a few months.
Friday’s protests were over the theft of an idol from a temple in Raigad district. The Opposition MLAs carried out their protest in an unusual manner during the zero hour – they brought with them a Ganesha idol and worshipped it in the House. They used cymbals, sang hymns invoking Ganesha, and shouted anti-government slogans. The government did not respond to their demand. The House was adjourned twice, and later stalled for the entire day after the suspension was announced.
The suspended legislators wanted the state police to trace the stolen Ganesha idol which was made of 1.5 kilograms of gold. The idol was stolen from a temple in Diveagar in Raigad district on Sunday. The suspected thieves also killed a temple security guard. The police have not yet made any arrests. The incident has caused statewide protests, led by the Shiv Sena.
Speaker Dilip Walse Patil tried in vain to pacify the agitating MLAs. When the protest reached a crescendo, parliamentary affairs minister Harshvardhan Patil tabled a resolution that the 14 MLAs be suspended. Deputy speaker Vasant Purke then sought a vote, and the resolution was passed with a majority vote.
The leader of the Opposition in the assembly, Eknath Khadse, said: “The suspension is draconian. The MLAs did not deserve such a harsh punishment,"
Khadse alleged there was a conspiracy behind the suspensions. He said the government took the extreme step because it did not want the Opposition to discuss issues like the Adarsh housing society scam, corruption charges against Congress MLA Kripashankar Singh and ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s alleged role in allotting a prime plot to film producer Subhash Ghai’s film institute Whistling Woods.
Speaking on behalf of the suspended MLAs, Eknath Shinde said. "We did not intend to lower the dignity of the House. We wanted to tell the government that even the gods are not safe in this state.