The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UPA skips out of trouble

Ranchi, Aug. 22: The ruling coalition today took the easiest way out of the political impasse when Speaker Alamgir Alam adjourned the House sine die.

But not before members almost came to blows and the Speaker turned down a no-confidence motion against himself. And not before the ruling UPA government turned down the opposition demand for a CBI probe into allegedly disproportionate assets acquired by a businessman friend of the chief minister.

It was for the income-tax department to find out disproportionate income, said chief minister Madhu Koda while ruling out any inquiry “under pressure” from the Opposition.

The House was to last two more days and the state government was expected to table several bills to amend the University Act, increasing the salary of legislators and pension for former legislators.

Alleging that both chief minister and Speaker had lost their credibility, Opposition NDA called on Governor Syed Sibtey Razi later in the afternoon and demanded dismissal of the governemnt, dissolution of the House and a fresh election.

On a day of high drama, former Assembly Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari came up with the most dramatic comment.

In his long political career, he asserted, he had not seen a chief minister like Madhu Koda. “Wah ya to farishta hai, ya fir shaitan” ( He is either an angel or the devil himself), mused Namdhari, reflecting on how calmly Koda sat through the outcry in the House over his relationship with businessman-friend, Vinod Sinha.

The Speaker justified his action by claiming that the no-confidence motion against him was not moved in accordance with Assembly rules. Parliamentary Affairs minister Stephen Marandi recalled that former Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari had adjourned the House sine die in 2003 without giving a ruling on a no-confidence motion against the chair.

When Namdhari tried to refute the claim, the ruling coalition members rose on their feet to shout him down.

An infuriated Namdhari walked to the well of the House, for the first time he recalled later, to remonstrate with the Speaker.

But finding Alam unresponsive and amidst the continuing din created by treasury benches for a change, he alleged that the Speaker had instigated ruling coalition members to shout him down.

With both sides shouting at each other and RJD’s Videsh Singh and health minister Bhanu Pratap Sahi moving menacingly towards BJP’s Sarayu Roy and C.P. Singh, the Speaker declared the House adjourned.

Namdhari and NDA leaders felt the Speaker could have sorted out the differences by calling a meeting in his chamber of senior members from both sides.

But instead of acting tactfully at reconciliation, they complained, the Speaker chose confrontation by rejecting the motion.

Alam, however, defended himself and said the opposition were not interested in receiving a reply.

It was more interested in disrupting the House and preventing members from raising real public issues.

Asked if he considered the issue of an unholy nexus between the government and a businessman a “public issue”, the Speaker parried the question by declaring that he did not have the authority to order a CBI probe and that the opposition could move the judiciary with such a demand.

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