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Power minister rises to speak, power goes off
- Govt seeks probe into why House went dark when Manish Gupta rose to speak on rural electrification

Calcutta, Dec. 12: The Assembly plunged into darkness for over five minutes this morning just when power minister Manish Gupta rose to reply to a question on electrification in villages, prompting the government to order an inquiry.

Gupta had just started to deliver his reply to a question by Congress MLA Asit Mitra on the status of electrification in villages under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme when the lights went off at 11.22am. Speaker Biman Banerjee adjourned the House for half an hour.

The irony was not lost on the Assembly members. Several of them laughed and shouted.

CESC, the private power utility that supplies electricity in Calcutta and Howrah, denied involvement in the outage.

The utility supplies power through a dedicated, high-tension 6kV line to the Assembly and Calcutta High Court.

A back-up line also connects these establishments with the CESC distribution station at BBD Bag.

“There was no problem with our supply at the time of the disruption in the Assembly. Had there been a problem at our end, there would have been an outage at the high court as well. We have thoroughly verified the fact that CESC had no role in the brief disruption,” said a company spokesperson.

The public works department maintains the “last-mile connectivity” inside the Assembly.

Sources in the state power department said the outage could have been caused by a “minor” snag in the Assembly’s own transformers. “If there was no foul play, then a minor glitch in the transformers is the most likely reason for the disruption,” an official said.

The digital clock in the House read 11.27.05 when the power was restored.

After the business of the House resumed around noon, parliamentary affairs and industries minister Partha Chatterjee requested the Speaker to order an investigation.

“The lights went out within minutes of the power minister rising to answer a query about rural electrification. Calcutta High Court and the Assembly have special arrangements. It is unthinkable (that there was no electricity for so long). You are our leader inside the House. You should investigate why the lights went out. We want an inquiry,” Chatterjee told Speaker Banerjee.

The Speaker immediately instructed the acting secretary to conduct an inquiry and submit the report within seven days. “I agree with Parthababu. This is a special zone. I order an investigation,” Banerjee said.

Later, Congress leader Manas Bhunia told reporters in the Assembly lobby that “the House and the state had been plunged into darkness under Trinamul”. “Yesterday, the lawlessness prevalent in the entire state entered the Assembly. Today, it was the darkness,” Bhunia said sarcastically.