Kerala Assembly: Ugly clashes mar budget speech, 9 MLAs injured
Kerala legislators broke chairs, threw mikes and climbed atop tables as unprecedented violence in the assembly on Friday left at least nine MLAs injured with the Opposition refusing to let finance minister KM Mani present the budget because of corruption charges against him.
Lawmakers of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front clashed with the watch-and-ward staff and threw the Speaker's chair into the well of the house. A Left MLA fainted inside the assembly with many security personnel sustaining minor injuries.
At a press conference later, Congress MLA K Sivadasan Nair took off his shirt to show bite marks and a CPI (M) legislator alleged she was partially disrobed in the chaos.
“It was a black day for the state. It is a shame the house turned a battleground. It is high time for the angry members to introspect,” said a visibly upset chief minister Oommen Chandy. Speaker N Sakthan said he would take action against the erring members who destroyed his chamber.
Fight breaks out in Kerela Assembly, three MLAs injured
The minister, however, managed to read out parts of the budget as ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front members and security staff formed a strong cordon to prevent the Opposition from physically obstructing Mani.
“The CPI(M) and BJP wanted create many martyrs. But their ploy fell flat,” Mani said, adding his only regret was he couldn’t go to church before coming to the House. The vigilance and anti-corruption bureau had registered a case against Mani last year in connection on charges of taking bribes from bar owners to renew liquor licences.
Outside the assembly too, the police used water cannons and lathis to disperse thousands of LDF workers who had laid siege to the building. An LDF supporter who had arrived for the protests died of a heart attack.
This came after a dramatic night when Mani and some of his colleagues locked themselves inside the assembly to thwart the Opposition’s attempts to prevent him from delivering the speech. Members of the LDF also stayed inside the assembly overnight.
CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan claimed the Opposition stir was a runaway hit. “A budget presented without the consent and presence of the Speaker is not valid,” he said.
The government and Opposition – separated by only eight seats – have been locked in a pitched battle in recent months, first over the state’s new liquor policy that closed down bars, and then over the Speaker’s election that saw a constituent of the ruling combine vote with the Opposition.
Shutdown on Saturday
Opposition LDF has called a statewide hartal on Saturday to protest against the attack on legislators and workers. “It is an attack on democracy. Even women legislators were not spared. We can’t be a mute spectator anymore,” said LDF convener Vaikkom Viswan adding the opposition would step up protest against Finance Minister K M Mani in coming days. The coalition would also meet Governor Justice Sathasivam in this regard, he said.