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Speaker gives Sahi a month

Ranchi, March 2: Faced by Forward Bloc bouncer to initiate disqualification proceedings against health minister Bhanu Pratap Sahi, Speaker Alamgir Alam today took evasive action.

He ordered that one of the two Bloc MLAs, Aparna Sengupta, will sit in the Opposition. But since Sahi has denied being a FB MLA and is a minister, Alam argued, he could not direct him to sit with the Opposition.

Therefore, he allowed every MLA to take a month to decide their political affiliation. Clearly convinced that members are confused about their political identity — and believing that MLAs will need at least four weeks to make up their mind — he directed the members to inform the Assembly secretariat of their affiliation within a month, by when the Assembly will hopefully be adjourned.

The Assembly was, however, spared the bizarre sight of one FB MLA sitting with the Opposition, when Sengupta failed to appear in the House. Sahi, meanwhile, reiterated he was never a FB MLA. The Speaker claimed Sahi had himself requested the Election Commission to clear the air about his affiliation.

The issue was raised thrice in the Assembly today. The opposition first tried to interrupt the governor’s address and “requested” him to settle Sahi’s membership issue first. When Razi ignored them and proceeded with his speech, the opposition walked out.

But the five “BJP MLAs” suspended by the party remained inside. After some time they raised the issue and then walked out of the House. Finally, CPI(ML) legislator Vinod Singh raised a point of order, which was ignored by Alam.

Sahi’s support is considered crucial to the survival of the UPA government. And with FB deciding to withdraw support from the government, Sahi’s continuance as minister has come under a legal cloud. By flouting the party whip, he has made himself liable to disqualification but under the Constitution, the Speaker alone can decide if he has actually flouted the whip.

Significantly, the opening day saw the House finally passing the Xth Schedule Regulation (Rules) Bill on disqualification of legislators on the ground of defection.

While the Budget session began today, the budget will not be presented before March 19. “On paper this is a month-long session,” said JD(U) leader Radha Krishna Kishore, “but the House will sit on only 21 days and just four days have been set aside for considering demands of 15 departments.”

Four days, said leader of the Opposition and former chief minister Arjun Munda, would not allow all the members to speak on the issue.

Had the budget been laid before the House on March 6, the opposition claimed, members would have had more time to study the documents and speak on the subject. Koda has confirmed the state will not be able to spend more than 40 per cent of its allocation this year.

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