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3-line whip for Assam Cong MLAs

Barricades put up at Dispur Last Gate on Friday ahead of the Assam Assembly session. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Aug. 1: The Assam Congress will issue a three-line whip to all its legislators with the aim of maintaining party discipline during the ensuing budget session of the Assembly from Monday.

The whip will be issued following a public announcement by the dissident MLAs that they will play the role of a “constructive Opposition” in the House and oppose all “anti-people policies” of the government.

Parliamentary affairs minister Nilamoni Sen Deka told The Telegraph today that a three-line whip is an instruction to vote on the party’s line and is strictly binding on the members of the party. He said violation of the party whip by a member would expose him or her to disqualification under the anti defection laws.

“When it is a one-line whip, it means merely to inform the members of the vote while a two-line whip instructs its members to be present during the vote. In case of three-line whip, the legislators will be informed about the vote, instructed to be present in the House during voting of all important bills and then vote in favour of the party line,” Deka said. During the monthlong ensuing session of Assam Assembly, chief minister Tarun Gogoi will present the state budget for the 2014-15 financial year. The government is expected to table some important financial bills and other matters in the Assembly.

Even though Deka described the three-line whip for voting in support of the government when the budget is up for voting as is customary, he evaded a reply on the question of dissident MLAs’ announcement to play the role of a constructive Opposition and oppose anti-people policies of the government.

Sources said the decision to issue a three-line whip is a “well-planned” and “calculated” move by the Congress to prevent any possibility of dissident MLAs remaining absent during voting or opposing any bill to be tabled by the government.

“The party does not want to take any risk. The whip will be issued during a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party scheduled to be held on Sunday in Dispur. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi will chair the meeting,” the source said.

Former health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the leader of the dissident group in the CLP, last month said they would play the role of a constructive Opposition and oppose anti-people policies of the government in the House. Sarma made the announcement soon after he tendered his resignation to governor J.B. Patnaik on July 21. The dissidents are in favour of removing Tarun Gogoi as the CLP leader.

Gauranga Prasad Das, principal secretary of the Assembly, said there is a procedure to disqualify a legislator if he or she violates the three-line whip of the party.

“First the party concerned will have to file a case against the legislator before the Assembly Speaker. Then the legislator will be given a show-cause notice to explain within a reasonable time. The Speaker will conduct hearings of both petitioner and defendant before giving the final verdict,” he said.

Sources said the dissident MLAs are expected to hold a meeting tomorrow or on Sunday to discuss their plan of actions for the ensuing Assembly session. “Let us hold discussions among ourselves. We will discuss the three-line whip and take a decision,” a dissident MLA said.