Ranchi, March 15: Chief minister Babulal Marandi suffered another jolt today, with Raj Bhavan remaining silent over his contention that Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari had no right to re-convene the adjourned Assembly on March 17 for testing the government's strength.
The BJP-led government, prima facie, has been reduced to a minority with seven ministers quitting office, switching sides and submitting a memorandum to Governor M. Rama Jois along with the Opposition MLAs. They have informed the Governor that Namdhari would be their leader.
The Governor last night asked the Assembly to test before March 31 whether the government enjoys the confidence of the legislators because such a check, in the light of the Supreme Court judgment in the S.R. Bommai case (1994), can be done only on the floor of the House.
Jois also asked Namdhari to ensure that the budget was passed before the end of the current fiscal.
Acting on the “message” from Raj Bhavan, Namdhari today announced that he would re-convene the House on March 17.
“This is necessary because once the government’s strength is tested, the House can proceed to approve the budget during the month’s remaining days. This process has to be completed before March 31. The rules amply permit me to convene the House on March 17,” he said.
The Speaker’s decision created a storm in the BJP camp even as senior party functionary Rajnath Singh arrived in the capital.
The chief minister, who has accused Namdhari of being partisan, today maintained that the Speaker has no power, under the rules of the House business committee, to re-convene an adjourned Assembly without consulting the leader of the House (the chief minister).
Marandi met the Governor in the afternoon and apprised Jois of his stand. In the evening, the chief minister called a meeting of the Cabinet, which decided that the House should be convened on March 27 for a trial of the government’s strength and the budget could be passed the next day.
On March 13, legislators of the ruling side had brought a no-confidence motion against the Speaker. If allowed, such a motion for removing the Speaker can be taken up for discussion and passage on the expiry of a 14-day notice period, which, incidentally, expires on March 27.
Marandi also said that since in the original listed business, the House was to observe holiday from March 17 to 20, the Speaker could not call the session on March 17.
“Some legislators might have gone to their villages, some could have proceeded to Kullu-Manali. Where is the hurry' My government is in a majority. I am not scared of a test of strength. Let the Cabinet decide the appropriate date,” he said.
Opposition MLAs, however, backed Namdhari’s decision to call the House on March 17. They met the Governor and requested him to provide them protection and ensure a smooth trial of strength on March 17.
“We do not want the ugly incidents of March 13 to be repeated in the House. We suspect that Marandi and his supporters are bent upon disrupting the House again on March 17,” leader of Opposition Stephen Marandi said.
Namdhari said: “Letters have been sent to all MLAs and Raj Bhavan, informing them that the House has been called at 11 am on March 17. The government had no business to intervene. Summoning the House is my prerogative as it was adjourned, not prorogued.”