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Cong walkout over debt jibe

Calcutta, July 5: Congress MLAs today walked out of the Assembly protesting a mention in the state resolution for an all-party delegation to Delhi that the Centre had not granted moratorium on debt and repayment obligations.

The Congress and the Left announced later that they would not be part of the delegation.

This is the first time the Congress staged a walkout from the Assembly since joining hands with Trinamul to form the government in Bengal.

The resolution proposes to send an all-party delegation to Delhi for parleys with the Centre on granting a three-year moratorium on the Rs 25,000-crore annual interest and debt repayment obligation, renewal of the Rs 8,750-crore Backward Regions Grant Fund and revised royalty rates on coal with retrospective effect.

The Congress raised objections on the sixth paragraph of the resolution that was placed by parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee. “The Union government, in spite of several requests from the state government, has not sanctioned moratorium on the debt and repayment obligation, nor has (it) granted restructuring of the above massive debt burden,” the paragraph states.

The government did not accept the Congress’s demand for an amendment and passed the resolution, leading to the walkout.

Congress legislature party chief Mohammed Sohrab had moved the amendment to replace the paragraph with: “The Union government has been holding several meetings with the state government on the sanction of moratorium...”

State unit chief Pradip Bhattacharya said: “If the state government adopts any resolution against the Centre, the Congress will oppose it.”

Sohrab said the state government was casting aspersions on the Centre.

Both the Congress and the Left pointed at “procedural lapses” in the introduction of the resolution as the list of business for the day did not mention it. Sohrab said the resolution had not been discussed in the business advisory committee meetings.

Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra objected to the resolution on the same ground. “The procedures are being violated. The resolution was circulated a short while ago. How can I move an amendment at such a short notice? If the government is serious and has the political will to strive for unanimity, then it should allow time for discussions,” Mishra said in the House.

He said the state government had clubbed three issues in the resolution, which went against rules.

The Speaker overruled the objection, saying the “minister had discussed the resolution with everybody”.

Chatterjee said the Congress and the Left were “hand-in glove”.