The Telegraph
Thursday , November 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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MLA first, Speaker later: priority shift before rally

Patna, Oct. 31: Somnath Chatterjee had set a precedent that Uday Narayan Chaudhary doesn’t seem to agree with.

As Lok Sabha Speaker, Chatterjee had defied the CPM whip and lost his over four-decade membership with the party to maintain the sanctity of his position in the country’s Lower House. Instead of working as a party member, Chatterjee had conducted the proceedings as the custodian of the Lok Sabha through a crucial no-confidence motion against the government on the Indo-US nuclear deal on July 22, 2008, setting an example of what a Speaker should be like.

The Speaker in the Bihar Assembly, Chaudhary, is setting a different example, though. Rather than caring for the “non-partisan” way that he should adopt as a Speaker, Chaudhary is busy with preparations for the JD(U)’s Adhikar Rally here on November 4. He is readying his official bungalow to accommodate JD(U) workers and people, who are likely to gather at his house to attend the rally.

Huge makeshift accommodations are coming up outside his official residence, 2, Desh Ratna Marg. The scene is in no way different from the official residences of the MLAs and the ministers.

Preferring anonymity, an official found outside Chaudhary’s residence told The Telegraph: “Speaker sir has asked to make accommodation outside the residence for party workers and the people who will come to Patna on Saturday night. They will make a night halt here. Next morning they will leave for Gandhi Maidan, the main venue.”

He added: “There is no adequate space on the premises of the residence. These pandals can accommodate around 600 people. Food will be cooked on the premises of the Speaker’s residence. Special cooks have been invited. All arrangements have been made and pe-ople coming from far-flung places need not worry.”

More than 40 labourers are involved in preparing the accommodation and around 20 people have been called to cook delicious food for the visitors, sources said. Proper arrangements of lights would be in place, while makeshift washrooms and toilets are coming up near the pandals.

When The Telegraph contacted Chaudhary, he only justified his action. “I am an MLA first and then a Speaker. It is my duty to make arrangements for people from my constituency visiting the city. I am making the arrangements for them and nothing more than that,” said Chaudhary, who represents the Imamganj Assembly seat in Gaya.

Chaudhary’s act has not gone down well with those who had held the constitutional post in the past. “He should follow the dharma (values) of the Speaker. Though there is no rule as such, a Speaker should think above the party,” said Sadanand Singh, a former Speaker of the Bihar Assembly and the current MLA from Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur.

Former Bihar Legislative Council chairman Tarakant Jha said: “I agree that there is no written rule, but there is no tradition of people holding the constitutional post getting involved in party activities and functions.”