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LS to Delhi Assembly: day of disruption

- Kejriwal accuses BJP and Congress of match-fixing on Mukesh Ambani

New Delhi, Feb. 13: Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said his government would resign if the Jan Lokpal bill is not allowed to be tabled in the Assembly after the House had got off to what he called a match-fixed start earlier in the day.

The Congress, which backs the Aam Aadmi Party government from outside, and the BJP both disrupted proceedings on a chaotic day that saw four adjournments.

“We are not in a hurry to go, we will give them (the BJP and the Congress) a long rope. But if they defeat the presentation of the Jan Lokpal bill, then we will resign,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The AAP government and the Centre have been locked in a tussle over the anti-corruption legislation. The Union law ministry says it needs prior approval from the Centre to be tabled. Kejriwal insists the powers of a legislative Assembly are “sacrosanct”.

The chief minister confirmed that the bill would be tabled tomorrow and said his government was prepared to extend the session beyond the decided date of February 16 to ensure its passage.

Unlike the government’s original plan, the session is not likely to be held either on Saturday or on Sunday. The climax is expected next week — on Monday or Tuesday — when a vote on presenting the bill is expected to be carried out.

Today, though, it was all bedlam as legislators yanked off microphones, snatched files, stuck unparliamentary posters on a minister’s seat as the Assembly gave the Lok Sabha serious competition in disruption. There was a comedy of errors too as Speaker M.S. Dhir, a first-time MLA, was fooled by Congress and BJP MLAs into putting to vote a motion curtailing his powers.

“The proceedings of the Delhi Assembly today clearly show match-fixing between the BJP and the Congress. Their actions were synchronised,” Kejriwal told reporters later. “I do not have any proof, but a doubt arises…. Mukesh Ambani is close to both parties, it seems the FIR against him has promoted them to aggressively oppose us.”

Kejriwal had earlier this week ordered filing of a case against industrialist Mukesh Ambani, petroleum minister Veerappa Moily and his predecessor Murli Deora for allegedly colluding to inflate prices of natural gas drawn from the Krishna-Godavari Basin.

The disruption started in the morning when both the BJP and the Congress, which backs the government from outside, demanded a discussion on the rise in racial crimes in Delhi. BJP legislators raised slogans against law minister Somnath Bharti, accused of leading a raid on some African nationals for running an alleged drug-and-sex racket.

As Bharti fiddled with his phone, the legislators stormed into the well of the House. One of them, R.P. Singh, snatched papers from Bharti and tore them before throwing the pieces at his face. He later wrote a poster with a slanderous phrase and stuck it to Bharti’s seat. Speaker Dhir didn’t allow a debate on Bharti’s actions. Within 10 minutes of convening, the House was adjourned.

After it reconvened, the BJP raised a different issue — of how many people were not getting old-age pension. Again, Congress and BJP MLAs entered the well. It led to a second adjournment. The third one followed soon.

At 4.20pm, when the House reconvened after the third adjournment, the Congress MLAs were the first to enter the well. “Majority of the House, a total of 40 legislators, want to discuss one issue, you cannot decide against the sense of the House,” Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely yelled.

Even as he spoke, another legislator, Asif Mohammed Khan, snatched all the papers lying in front of the Speaker. He then charged at the chief minister’s chair and yanked off the microphone.

When the Congress legislators withdrew, the BJP MLAs stepped in. A tussle ensued between Dhir and the BJP legislators who pulled at the Speaker’s microphone.

At 4.45pm, the Speaker finally agreed to hold discussions against Bharti and adjourned the session for 10 minutes. When the House reconvened, Lovely moved a resolution to curtail the Speaker’s powers.

Dhir allowed the motion to be put to vote. The Congress and the BJP together cleared the motion. The legislators then informed the Speaker that he no longer had the power to punish any MLA by “naming” them without the consent of the House.


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