| A Trinamul MLA holds aloft a poster inside the House on Wednesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, March 5: A steady din and repeated interruptions from the Opposition benches during his speech on the inaugural day of the budget session today impelled Governor Viren J. Shah to hit back.
“By now, you must have known me. I never retreat,” he told the Trinamul Congress legislators yelling “go back, go back” at the top of their voices.
The Governor’s punch came after he had read almost half of his printed address and the noise became unbearable as slogan-shouting Trinamul legislators trooped into the well trying to prevent him from finishing the speech. Paper balls were hurled at the Governor.
The Trinamul members alleged that the speech did not reflect the “real situation” in the state. The Congress legislators, who initially kept quiet, staged a walkout later. They were followed by a couple of SUCI members.
Congress legislature party leader Atish Sinha justified the walkout, saying the Governor’s speech was “full of untruths and a calculated attempt to hide the state government’s total bankruptcy in economic and all other major sectors”.
The Governor described the overall law and order in the state as “satisfactory” but expressed concern over the activities of the ISI and militant outfits like the People’s War, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and the Maoist Communist Centre.
“The incidence of crime throughout the state during the last one year was much lower than that in many other major states of the country,’’ Shah told the Assembly.
He felt the problem posed by the militant outfits could not be effectively tackled “unless neighbouring states like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh adopt a judicious strategy to deal with it”. The Governor also underscored the need to dismantle the camps of the United Liberation Front of Asom in Bhutan, where the KLO militants were being trained and sheltered.
Referring to the increasing ISI activities in the border districts, the Governor called for greater co-ordination and sharing of intelligence among the concerned agencies and closer vigil on the International Border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Soon after Shah entered the House, escorted by Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim and his security staff, Trinamul MLA Paresh Pal, armed with a poster, blocked his path. Several other Trinamul MLAs followed Pal, but Shah made it to the Speaker’s podium without any great hitch.
Trouble erupted as the Governor began to read out his speech. Almost all the Trinamul legislators left their seats and headed for the well. Most of those who didn’t, thumped desks in support. They tore copies of the Governor’s address and made paper balls out of them. The missiles were targeted at the treasury benches as well.
Three Trinamul members —actor-turned MLA Tapas Pal, actress Nayana Das and Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee — however, sat quiet.
The chaos inside was re-enacted when the Governor was on his way back to Raj Bhavan. About 30 Trinamul MLAs blocked his path, some of them lying on floor. The Governor reached his car after a mini scuffle between the MLAs and the securitymen.