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Buzzer rings, Jaya leaves

New Delhi, Dec. 27: One of the most articulate chief ministers in the country today walked out of a national meeting when the buzzer went off after a 10-minute ceiling and alleged later that voices of federalism had been stifled.

Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa had reached the sixth paragraph of her 34-paragraph speech at the National Development Council (NDC) when the countdown clock placed in a corner rang.

The loud sound appears to have jolted the chief minister, who is quite fluent in English and was referring to a cable network complaint related to the DMK family.

Jayalalithaa said the rest of her speech be considered “as read” and left the convention hall where the 12th plan document was being discussed.

At the outset, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had announced that since there were several speakers, the 10-minute minute rule had been introduced.

Secretary in the Planning Commission Sindhushree Khullar had sent a letter to chief secretaries of the states, conveying that the maximum time permissible to each chief minister would be 10 minutes because of time constraints.

“Therefore, for the smooth and timely conduct of the meeting, it is requested that the written text of the speech from the floor (10 minutes duration) may be made available to us, preferably in advance. I request you to kindly co-operate in adhering to the time limits,” Khullar said in his letter.

The 10-minute rule was adhered to after Jayalalithaa —who was the first to speak after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh whose speech lasted 20 minutes — left but the volume of the buzzer was lowered.

The system is similar to the one that allows three minutes each to MPs for special mentions in Parliament. In the House, after the allotted three minutes, the microphones go mute — that was not the case at Vigyan Bhavan where the NDC meet was held.

Jayalalithaa told reporters later: “Just by allowing 10 minutes and humiliating us in this way, they need not have to call us all the way to Delhi to participate in this meeting. It has stifled the voice of the chief ministers in the Opposition.”

The portion Jayalalithaa could not read out but was tabled had some scathing remarks on the Centre on FDI in retail and “big brotherly and undemocratic approach”.