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MLAs missing in House

Ranchi, Dec. 5: The state Assembly repeatedly failed to start proceedings today for want of minimum attendance, a day after legislators of all parties ganged up against the Arjun Munda government for not providing them MLA local area development funds this year.

“Both ruling and opposition parties stayed away from the House today and the proceedings could not take off due to lack of quorum, perhaps for the first time in the history of India’s parliamentary democracy,” Speaker C.P. Singh conceded.

He explained that according to rules, either one tenth of the strength of the House (82 MLAs) or at least 10 members, whichever is greater, have to be present to make up the quorum — the smallest number of people who must be present.

“But in this case, let alone MLAs, even ministers did not care to ensure the quorum,” Singh told The Telegraph.

Legislators stuck to their demand that the government either release local area development funds immediately or abolished it.

Initially, the Assembly appeared a full house at 10.50am, as the MLAs took their seats and even exchanged smiles. But BJP heavyweight Raghuvar Das soon “directed” everyone to quietly move out.

Laxman Gilua (BJP) and Dhullu Mahto (JVM) were busy interacting with the ministers, but they, too, left before the Speaker could be seated.

The House was adjourned till noon.

The Speaker returned at 12.25pm, only to announce that the House had been adjourned till 2pm. In the afternoon session, all the members stayed away even as a bell rang repeatedly till 4pm.

Singh held an all-party meeting to persuade the MLAs to take part in the proceedings. The chief minister also spoke to a few heavyweights, but to no avail.

At 4pm, Singh arrived as Munda and his 11 ministerial colleagues made for the quorum, along with CPI-ML (Liberation) legislator Vinod Kumar Singh.

The Speaker even proposed to extend the business hours for the day. But the House was adjourned yet again in the absence of members, which was necessary for important tasks lying ahead such as passing the much-awaited Usha Martin University Bill, 2012.

“The Speaker is responsible for smoothly conducting the Assembly’s functions. But the leader of the House has bigger responsibilities,” said C.P. Singh, hinting that the chief minister also had to play an active role.

Leader of Opposition Rajendra Prasad Singh said Munda should resign as he had lost the faith of even BJP MLAs and his ministerial colleagues.

The chief minister, however, remained evasive.

Tomorrow is the last day of the state Assembly’s winter session.