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Challenge: to be or not to be

MLAs in the Assembly on Thursday. (Bishwarup Dutta)

Calcutta, Dec. 5: The topic for discussion was “challenges before parliamentary democracy”. But Trinamul MLAs focussed on something that “will disappear” when the Assembly turns 100: the CPM, not parliamentary democracy.

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim, a close aide of Mamata Banerjee, prophesied: “Eksho bochhor jokhon hobe, ube jabe, thakbe na (When the Assembly turns 100, it will disappear). It will only remain in history.”

Of the 21 speakers at the discussion, held as part of the special session to mark the closing ceremony of the Assembly’s platinum jubilee celebrations, 17 were Trinamul MLAs.

Taking a cue from the chief minister, who had expressed dissatisfaction at the Opposition yesterday for boycotting the session, the 17 Trinamul MLAs spoke at length on how the CPM was a “threat to democracy”.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee, who also looks after the parliamentary affairs department, referred to an incident when he was the leader of Opposition during the Left rule.

“The then Speaker had invited me to accompany him to London for an event. I had sought the permission of our leader and she had agreed. We had differences with the government but we kept the interests of the state above those of the party,” he said.

“We were not allowed to talk about the attacks on our party leader and farmers and atrocities in Nandigram, Singur and Netai. But we kept our faith in democracy. Today, the Opposition is trying to make an issue of a non-issue,” Chatterjee said, referring to allegations by the Left and the Congress that the government was “stifling” their voice in the Assembly.

Trinamul sources said Mamata was “extremely unhappy” with the Opposition for “playing politics” by boycotting the programme and had told party MLAs to highlight this during today’s discussion.

The CPM’s Surjya Kanta Mishra sought to turn the tables on the chief minister.

Referring to Mamata’s speech in the House yesterday, where she had said the Assembly was “above everything”, the leader of the Opposition said: “She is saying the exact opposite. The Assembly is not an apolitical place.”