|BJP MLA Umashankar Akela brandishes The Telegraph report on midday meal mess, while governor Syed Ahmed gestures at the Opposition to hear him out during the Assembly session on Thursday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, July 25: First day, action-packed first show.
The Assembly’s special monsoon session today from 10am to noon saw the formal election of Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta, tabling of four amendments and various condolences, but the highlight was a 20-minute war of vocal chords.
The Hemant Soren government had drafted a 22-page speech with 100 development points for governor Syed Ahmed to highlight today. Ideally, it should have taken him an hour. But Opposition members, with loud parallel speeches and onslaught of charges, forced Ahmed to stop in 20 minutes.
“I was talking about the progress and potential of Jharkhand but some people were shouting,” Ahmed later said.
The governor, whose penchant for Urdu is well known, expressed his anguish poetically: “Jab uthata hun tamire nasheman ke liye, charon taraf zanjiron ki jhankaar sunai deti hai (when I rise to build a nest to relax I hear jangles of chains).”
Proceedings of the House began at 10am with JMM’s Sarath MLA Shashank Shekhar Bhokta being elected the sixth Speaker of the Assembly.
Bhokta, administered oath of office by pro tem Speaker Simon Marandi, expressed his gratitude towards the House and referred to British parliamentarian Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to underline the role of the Speaker.
He lauded chief minister Hemant Soren as a young leader who ended President’s Rule. But the Opposition seemed to be waiting for the governor’s customary speech to start heckling.
Sure enough, as soon as Ahmed started his address, JVM firebrand MLA from Poraiyahat Pradeep Yadav interrupted him.
He told Ahmed to stop reading the prasangsa ki pothi (praise list) and demanded the government’s response to the recent police firing at an NTPC site in Keredari, Hazaribagh district, where one villager was killed. JVM’s Samresh Singh added to the chorus.
Then, others in the Opposition joined them in the din, sloganeering and waving newspapers.
BJP’s Barhi MLA Umashankar Akela brandished The Telegraph report on Jharkhand’s poor condition of midday meals. He and his party colleagues Satyanand Jha Batul and Neelkanth Singh Munda started making parallel speeches to outdo the governor’s lung power and make him stop.
They did not stop till a flustered governor, shouting and fumbling himself, was forced to sum up his speech.
“Bolne dijiye, bolne dijiye, ye sab toka-taki maryada ke khilaf hai (Let him speak. Such interruptions are against decorum),” Congress MLA Sarfaraz Ahmed chided the Opposition.
Immediately, a shrill Batul demanded: “Why not? You people have joined each other in an opportunistic alliance to save morality in politics. Criminals have taken law and order in their hands. You are gagging Opposition.”
Leader of Opposition Arjun Munda, BJP veteran Raghubar Das, former Speaker C.P. Singh, Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto and CPI(ML) Vinod Singh, who occupied front seats of Opposition benches were silent but their expressions showed they relished the governor’s discomfiture. On occasion, Das encouraged Akela to keep ranting.
As a last-ditch attempt, Ahmed started speaking loudly. “The government has decided on strict fiscal control, social and infrastructure development and a corruption-free administration. It is committed towards all-round development of Jharkhand with transparency. In the 2012-13 fiscal year, we have made robust progress in the social, irrigation and road sectors and have generated jobs for people,” he said.
“Suniye, suniye, main kuch important baat kah raha hun arey suniye to (Listen to me, I am putting across some important points, please listen me),” he said.
But the Opposition kept demanding a White Paper on the impending drought-like situation in Jharkhand as well as the deteriorating law and order.
Finally, at 11.15am, an exhausted governor stopped.
Then, a semblance of order returned. Four amendment bills were tabled before the House. Members paid tributes to slain Congress veteran V.C. Shukla, Congress MLA Chhattisgarh Mahendra Karma, Pakur SP Amarjit Balihar, Padmashree awardee and Mithila painter Mahasundari Devi and others.
“The House is meant for debate but not this way,” Speaker Bhokta said when House was adjourned.