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For 51sqm, TMC fights unwilling Desam

New Delhi, Aug. 12: The battle lines have been drawn in Parliament between Mamata Banerjee’s MPs and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party — over a 51sqm room.

Trinamul members today tried to take possession of the ground-floor room occupied by the Desam for the past 30 years but couldn’t after Naidu’s MPs refused to vacate it, which means the unseemly turf war has to be resolved by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

The tussle over No. 5 started this afternoon when the Trinamul members, armed with a letter of allotment from the Lok Sabha secretariat, gathered outside the Desam’s parliamentary party office room and got their party nameplate installed by Lok Sabha staff. No Desam MP was present at that time.

Some half an hour later, the Desam MPs came and got their nameplates re-installed. No Trinamul member was present in the room then.

“We have been occupying this room for the last 30 years. The behaviour of the Trinamul members… is undemocratic and uncultured,” Desam leader in the Rajya Sabha Y.S. Chowdary said.

The Desam, part of the ruling NDA alliance, has been allotted two top-floor rooms — numbers 135 and 136, now in the possession of the CPM — but has refused to shift as ground-floor offices are considered prestigious. The CPM, which has just nine MPs in the Lok Sabha, will be allotted a smaller room.

The angry Desam members rushed to meet parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu. They said they would meet the Speaker tomorrow and urge her not to force them to leave the room they had got in 1984 when party icon N.T. Rama Rao was still alive.

Trinamul leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay, who led the No. 5 occupation move, said his party MPs were only following a directive from the Speaker’s office. “The Speaker’s office has allotted this room to our party and asked us to occupy it at the earliest. We are here to abide by the directive. We have been talking to the Desam members for the last 2-3 days and we want everything to be done peacefully.”

The Desam leaders admitted the room had been allotted to Trinamul but slammed the “takeover” bid. “We have written and appealed to the Speaker and sought time. The Trinamul members should have waited till we met the Speaker and sorted out the matter,” Chowdary said.

The Desam members argued that Room No. 5 had remained with them even when they had just two MPs in the Lok Sabha and their “emotional and sentimental” attachment couldn’t be snapped at a time when they have returned to power in Andhra and have 16 Lok Sabha MPs.

The Trinamul members say they deserve a ground-floor room as they are the fourth-largest party in the Lok Sabha with 34 members and have 12 MPs in the Rajya Sabha.

“Till now we have no room in Parliament. No room was allotted to us in the last Lok Sabha. Based on our strength we deserve a ground-floor room, though it is small for our strength. It is just 51sqm,” Sudip said.

Rooms for parties are allotted based on their strength.

Parliament officials said it was not easy to get rooms “forcibly” vacated. “We can allot rooms but it is for the political parties to sort out the matter amicably,” said an official in the Speaker’s office.