The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mock Assembly in marriage hall

Chennai, April 27: Believing they were battered by the powers that be in the tumultuous budget session in the Assembly, the Opposition sought to recreate a “model Assembly” outside — not far from the seat of power at Fort St. George — to show how business “ought to be conducted” in a legislature.

It was envisaged that a mock Assembly would be set up at a kalyana mandapam (marriage hall) to demonstrate how “healthy norms and conventions” could ensure that the Opposition had “its say”, but the government “had its way”.

Jayalalithaa’s rivals believe they are being gagged in the Assembly. The ongoing session has seen frequent walkouts by the Opposition parties, who have charged Speaker K. Kalimuthu of denying them an opportunity to speak.

The DMK is boycotting proceedings since two of its members, former deputy Speaker Paruthi Ilamvazhuthi and J. Anbazhagan, were suspended for the rest of the session.

During the furore over DMK leader M.K. Stalin’s midnight arrest, the entire Opposition, barring the BJP and the AIFB, were evicted from the Assembly. The legislators were aghast that the Speaker justified the eviction, saying it was in conformity with House norms and the MLAs were at fault for trying to raise the college issue before question hour.

Jayalalithaa’s rivals are particularly peeved with her criticism of their “irresponsible behaviour” that “people hate” during the row over Stalin going into Queen Mary’s College to address students agitating against the proposed demolition of the institute to make way for a new secretariat.

When the Assembly adjourned recently for a week, an agonised PMK founder-leader S. Ramadoss broached the idea of a model Assembly to DMK president M. Karunanidhi. A couple of days ago, Karunanidhi spread the word while addressing an all-party rally in Chennai to condemn the “repressive measures” of the Jayalalithaa government.

“After Ramadoss proposed holding a model Assembly to hold up a mirror to the people, I entrusted the (duty of) idea implementation to Durai Murugan, DMK deputy leader in the House, and the PMK president G.K. Mani,” he said.

But the plan proved a non-starter, Karunanidhi admitted, “due to lack of certain facilities”. Political observers said that if any of the marriage halls in the city had been let out for even a day for the model Assembly, the owner ran the risk of being hauled up by the government or inviting a breach of privilege action by the Speaker.

On a lighter vein, sources said, any recreation of the Assembly would have been incomplete without the inimitable Jayalalithaa.

But the biggest damper to the PMK’s proposal came from within the Opposition itself, the sources said. The political temperature had shot up so high in the wake of Stalin’s arrest that, while suggesting a model Assembly, the PMK and the Congress also demanded dismissal of the ADMK regime under Article 356 for its “undemocratic functioning”.

This proved to be the turning point in the drive to rally all the Opposition parties against Jayalalithaa.

The CPM and the CPI, though aggrieved with proceedings in the House, believed with the BJP that the situation did not warrant invoking of Article 356. They poured cold water not only on the unity drive, but also on the model Assembly plan.

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