| Santosh Singh Saluja |
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 12: Congress MLA Santosh Singh Saluja was suspended from the Assembly for a week for making offensive remarks against Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat.
Saluja had accused the Speaker of being partisan and helping the treasury benches. Despite the 27-member Congress party opposing the move, a motion was today moved by government chief whip Pravat Tripathy and was passed by the House.
At the beginning of zero hour, Saluja was seen standing on his seat attempting to raise a point of order. But he was not allowed by the Speaker who called government deputy chief whip Sanjay Dasburma to speak. Enraged over this, Saluja made the offensive remarks.
This evoked protests from the treasury benches. Parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das said this amounted to an affront to the high office of Speaker, which is above all parties. He demanded an unconditional apology from the member.
Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan expressed regrets for the remark against the Speaker. Harichandan and Independent member Pratap Sarangi said Saluja was aggrieved since he was not being allowed to raise his point for the last two days.
Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh also described the incident as “unfortunate” and urged the Speaker to expunge the remarks from the proceedings.
However, BJD members insisted on suspension of Saluja in case he did not express regrets. Government chief whip Tripathy moved the motion.
Congress chief whip Harichandan said the action was “unjust” as the Opposition had already expressed regrets and the member concerned was also ready to express regrets, but he was not given an opportunity to do so.
Earlier, there was a heated debate in the House as to whether the government chief whip or his deputy can raise any issue like an ordinary member. Congress chief whip Harichandan raised an objection when the Speaker allowed government deputy chief whip Dasburma to raise a point of order during zero hour.
“Government chief whip and deputy chief whip enjoy the status of a minister and represent the government. Hence they cannot participate like an ordinary member", he said.
On the other hand, parliamentary affairs minister Das and government chief whip Tripathy maintained that the chief whip and deputy chief whip can participate in the discussion during zero hour like any ordinary member.
The debate came to an end with the Speaker giving a ruling that government chief whip and deputy chief whip will be treated as ordinary members though they enjoy the status of a minister.
Angry with the suspension order, the Congress legislators, however, staged a walkout.