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House tumult over council shift date

Bhubaneswar, March 28: Opposition Congress today created a furore in the House and stalled its proceedings by staging a dharna and creating noisy scenes in the Well.

The party forced more than 10 adjournments for nearly four hours demanding a deadline for shifting the headquarters of Western Orissa Development Council from Bhubaneswar, even as the government remained non-committal on the matter.

The contentious issue had cropped up for discussion through an Opposition-sponsored adjournment motion and calling attention notice given by the ruling party members.

Moving the adjournment motion, deputy leader of Congress Narasingh Mishra said the Western Orissa Development Council, set up by the government in 1999, had not been reconstituted after the 2004 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Though 11 MLAs and two MPs from western Orissa were to be nominated to the Council every two years, the seats had remained vacant.

The Council had been packed by leaders from the ruling BJD-BJP coalition, who had been nominated as expert members though they did not have any expertise on the subject, Mishra, who had earlier headed the Council, alleged.

State planning and coordination minister Padmanabha Behera assured the House that the Council would be reconstituted within a month. Location of the headquarters would be decided, he added, with the consultation of the members after the reconstitution of the Council.

However, not satisfied with the ministerís assurance, Mishra wanted a specific deadline for shifting the headquarters and announced that he will stage a dharna in the Well till the government gives a date.

With the government caught on the wrong foot, BJD-BJP chief whip Kishor Mohanty requested deputy speaker Prahlad Dora to adjourn the House for 15 minutes to restore normalcy.

The House was then adjourned four times for 65 minutes as Speaker Maheswar Mohanty convened a meeting of the leaders of various legislative groups in his chamber to resolve the matter. The dharna and uproarious scenes continued in the afternoon session, forcing five adjournments for two hours 15 minutes.

Later in the evening, normalcy returned to the Assembly after the Opposition lifted its dharna following assurances from Behera that the Councilís headquarters would be shifted by September 30 this year.

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