The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Munda finds House key in panchayat law change

Ranchi, Sept. 10: The Arjun Munda government today used the proposed amendments to the Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act to try to find a way out of the impasse in the Assembly’s monsoon session.

Minutes after the amendment Bill was tabled in the House, the chief minister said that since in 2001, too, the original legislation was approved in the absence of the Opposition, he wanted a full House to debate the proposed changes. Munda suggested that a “special” session be convened to discuss the Bill and said Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari’s decision would be final.

Namdhari, in a masterstroke, ruled that he would not “adjourn” the monsoon session sine die on its last day tomorrow and would instead announce a convenient date for an “extended” session to resume after the Durga Puja holidays.

The Speaker thus not only acted in line with the chief minister’s suggestion, but also tried to soothe the Opposition, which has been staying away from the House because its plea for a longer session was ignored.

Namdhari’s ruling caught some members in the treasury benches unawares and they tried to rise in protest, suggesting that a “special” session did not mean an “extended” session. Allowing an “extended” session would be seen as giving in to the Opposition’s demand.

But by then it was already too late and Munda stopped his colleagues from taking the matter any further. Namdhari said he would announce the date of the extended session tomorrow.

Sources said that since the proposed amendments would “curtail” the rights of the tribals in the Scheduled Areas to some extent, the government wanted to take the Opposition with it.

“The Opposition has already started saying that the proposed amendments are unconstitutional. If ignored again, the Opposition leaders would have a stick ready to beat the government with. The government wants to avoid such a situation,” a source said.

The Opposition was equally surprised by the Speaker’s ruling. Leader of the Opposition Stephen Marandi welcomed it but said a decision on whether they would attend the House tomorrow would be taken only after they received an official communication.

Signals from the Opposition camp indicate that its members would attend the extended session. Some said the House might as well discuss other issues they had brought up.

CPI member Bhubaneshwar Mehta hailed the ruling and said the Opposition should attend the extended session. The Opposition had presented a list of 20 issues that it wanted to take up during a longer monsoon session.

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