Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri addresses a rally at the Motor Stand in Darjeeling on Friday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Calcutta, Aug. 23: Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee today dismissed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s plea that its three MLAs be allowed to sit in the Opposition benches instead of the Treasury benches.
Banerjee said he had received a letter from Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, requesting him to allow the MLAs — Harka Bahadur Chhetri (Kalimpong), Trilok Dewan (Darjeeling) and Rohit Sharma (Kurseong) — to sit with the Opposition legislators.
“But I rejected the plea because the letter was sent by the Morcha general secretary. According to Assembly rules, such a letter should come from the leader of the legislature party. If the Morcha legislature party leader sends the request, I can consider it,” Banerjee said.
The three Morcha MLAs have been sitting in the Treasury benches since the Trinamul government came to power in May 2011. Chhetri is the leader of the Morcha legislature party in the Assembly. The Morcha does not have an official alliance with Trinamul.
Giri said today that the Morcha would not attend the session. “But Chhetri will write to the Speaker,” he added.
Giri had announced in Darjeeling on Saturday that the three MLAs would no longer sit in the Treasury benches because of the state government’s “coercive tactics to curb the Gorkhaland agitation” in the hills.
“We don’t want to sit in the Treasury benches any more. Our MLAs will sit with the Opposition,” Giri had told reporters in Darjeeling.
Asked about the reason for such a decision, the Morcha leader had said: “They (the government) are out to curb our statehood agitation. This is why we will write to the Assembly Speaker, requesting him to allow our three MLAs to sit with the Opposition legislators instead of the Treasury benches.”
The Speaker’s decision comes two days before the three-day extended budget session beginning on Monday.
Morcha sources said it would be “embarrassing” for the three MLAs to sit along with Trinamul legislators at a time the hill party was protesting the government’s “repressive measures to curb our statehood agitation”.
Six bills, including the West Bengal Right to Public Services Bill and the City Civil Court Amendment Bill, will be tabled in the session.
Speaker Banerjee today adjourned the hearing of Congress’s demand that it be awarded the status of the principal Opposition party.
The Speaker said the hearing was adjourned following a letter from Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM.
Congress legislature party chief Mohammed Sohrab had last week written to the Speaker, demanding that the party be awarded principal Opposition status as it had 40 legislators. The CPM has one less.
The Left is now the main Opposition because it has 62 MLAs.
The Congress has argued that the Left is a conglomeration of several parties and the Congress’s individual strength in the Assembly was more than the CPM’s.
“Numerically, ours is the largest Opposition party, followed by CPM. This is why we are demanding the status of the principal Opposition party in the 294-member House,” Sohrab said.
Dismissing Sohrab’s comments, CPM leaders said the party had formed the Left Front coalition before the Assembly polls.
Speaker Banerjee said: “I will use my discretion because the Assembly handbook empowers the Speaker to take a decision in such cases.”