Bengal Assembly: Governor’s speech interrupted for an hour amid BJP protests
West Bengal BJP legislators staged a protest in the well of the House raising allegations of violence and rigging during the recently-held civic polls.
KOLKATA: West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar could not read his inaugural speech at the state legislative assembly’s budget session for around an hour on Monday amid protests by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators.
It was only after an hour that he finally read the last line of his speech at the request of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, avoiding a constitutional crisis.
“I am now going to thank him. Had the governor left without reading, it would have led to a constitutional crisis. It was an unprecedented situation. TMC (Trinamool Congress) legislators requested him multiple times not to leave, without reading his speech. The governor called me. I asked the legislators to take their seats. He then read the speech. Thanks to him,” Banerjee told reporters after seeing off Dhankar.
BJP legislators, led by leader of the opposition in the assembly Suvendu Adhikari staged a protest in the well of the house raising allegations of violence and rigging during the recently-held civic polls. This held up the governor’s speech from 2 pm to 3pm.
“The TMC and the state police have looted votes in the recently held civic polls. It was entirely organised by the chief minister and her police. The BJP doesn’t accept this mandate. But the governor’s speech didn’t have a word on the poll violence. The content of his speech was the brainchild of the chief minister. The council of ministers inserted specific words and lines which the CM wanted. We registered an unprecedented protest,” said Adhikari.
The speaker of the assembly, the governor and the chief minister could be seen requesting the protesting MLAs to go back to their seats so that the governor could read his statement and the session could start. The BJP, however, refused to budge.
Meanwhile, the Governor, as he was not able to read and table his speech, attempted to leave the house more than once. While the chief minister rushed to him and requested him not to leave the assembly without reading a line, women legislators of the TMC also stopped him and requested him to read at least one line so that the budget session could take off.
At one point, the governor could be seen speaking with both Partha Chatterjee, TMC’s state general secretary and state parliamentary affairs minister, and Suvendu Adhikari, BJP leader.
“The speaker appealed to them (BJP). I appealed to them. The BJP is shameless. They lost in the elections and are now trying to stage a drama. It is a shame on democracy. It was all pre-planned. We waited for an hour. Not a single TMC MLA uttered a word. It was only when the governor was attempting to leave that the TMC legislators went up to his chair and appealed to him to read at least one line,” said Banerjee.
It was around 3 pm that the governor read a line of the speech and tabled it even as the BJP legislators continued to protest carrying placards and posters while shouting slogans against the TMC government. Dhankhar left the assembly after that. Biman Banerjee, speaker of the House, and chief minister Mamata Banerjee could be seen escorting him.
The governor had summoned the assembly on March 7 after a week-long controversy over the timing of the inaugural session.
On February 24, in an unprecedented development, the governor summoned the budget session of the state legislative assembly at 2 am on March 7.
While Dhankhar claimed that he had summoned the Assembly after midnight while accepting the decision of Mamata Banerjee-cabinet, speaker of the state legislative assembly Biman Banerjee said it was a typographical error and the governor could have ignored it.
Later, the state’s chief secretary requested the governor to summon the assembly at 2 pm as it was a typographical error. The governor, however, returned the request saying that it was a cabinet decision that the assembly session be called at 2 am and hence can’t be changed at the request of the chief secretary.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had to call a cabinet meeting on February 28 to pass a fresh proposal, which had to be sent to the governor requesting him to summon the assembly at 2 pm on March 7.
Even though the face-off between the TMC-government and the governor had triggered in 2019, months after the latter took charge, the acrimonious relation nosedived to an all-time low in recent months. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has even blocked Dhankhar on her social media account.
TMC leaders earlier claimed that the party would move a resolution in the budget session of the assembly against the governor.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said: “I tried my best to ensure order in the house. There was no cooperation from either side. As governor, I cannot allow a constitutional crisis. Ultimately to discharge solemn constitutional duty and to ensure the highest traditions are maintained, I took the only step available that the address be laid on the table”
Later in the day, the BJP legislators brought out a protest rally alleging that the TMC legislators had heckled the governor. Asked whether he was heckled by TMC legislators, as was being alleged by the BJP, Dhankhar said only the BJP can share details on that.
He said that he had directed the assembly secretary to deploy the marshal to restore order. “The secretary gave in writing that he conveyed it to the marshal, who had declined. This is not a small development. This is very serious,” he added.