The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power vacuum row in House

Ranchi, Feb. 25: The entire Opposition walked out of the Jharkhand Assembly today to protest the absence of most ministers and secretaries concerned during the debate on budgetary demands of various departments.

No minister except water resources’ Ramchandra Kesri was present in the treasury benches when the House reassembled after lunch to debate the demands.

The secretaries for animal husbandry, urban development and water resources, too, were missing when the members gathered for the debate.

It provoked Congress member Rajendra Singh to raise a point of order. “What is the use of discussing the demand when the ministers and the secretaries concerned are missing'” Singh asked, expressing anguish at the “perfunctory” attitude of the ministers and members towards the House.

Congress Legislature Party leader Furkan Ansari and CPIML-Liberation member Mahendra Singh, too, described the absence of ministers and secretaries as “unfortunate”, asking the chair to give a ruling over the “dereliction of duty” on the part of the government functionaries concerned. Deputy Speaker Bagun Sumbrai was in the chair.

Subsequently, leader of Opposition Stephen Marandi led the Congress boycott. Members of other parties, including the RJD, the JMM, the CPIML-Liberation and the MCC, followed their Congress counterparts, leaving the Opposition benches empty.

The infuriated Opposition members reached the chamber of Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari to lodge a protest. Namdhari assured them that he would look into the matter. The members then sat in the chamber of the leader of Opposition.

The Speaker later occupied the chair and parliamentary affairs minister Mrigendra Pratap Singh joined the treasury benches to issue a clarification. He said the urban development secretary had gone to Delhi on an “important official work”.

“The joint secretary of the urban development department is present in the officers’ gallery to represent his secretary,” he said. Singh said most of the other secretaries were present. “They may have gone out for a while. But most of them have turned up in the House,” he added.

Human resource development minister Pashupati Nath Singh and BJP chief whip in the House C.P. Singh went to Marandi’s chamber to persuade the Opposition members to return. After a long bout of persuasion, the members returned.

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