House adjourns over missing ministers

Dilip Kumar Paul

Guwahati: The Assam Assembly had to be adjourned for 15 minutes during the second half on Friday as not a single minister was present in the House.

Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who was in the chair, was compelled to adjourn the House when Opposition MLAs rose to their feet and protested against the absence of all ministers from the House, which they claimed to be unprecedented in the history of the Assembly.

Before the adjournment, when the Assembly met at 3pm for the afternoon session, the quorum bell rang for about seven minutes in a reminder that the House did not have the minimum MLAs needed to hold its proceedings. In Assam, a quorum of at least 21 MLAs (one sixth of the total strength of the House, which is 126) is required to be present.

When sufficient MLAs entered the House, the Opposition pointed out that no minister was present. They claimed that the House couldn't resume its business without the presence of even a single minister. This triggered a war of words between the Opposition and the ruling party members and Paul decided to adjourn the House for 15 minutes.

When the House reassembled, parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary hurriedly entered it.

"We all are responsible members and need to keep in mind the dignity of the House," Paul said, adding. "There were only 16 MLAs. Then there was no minister. We should be careful from next time so that such things do not happen again." But again at 4.20pm, Congress MLA Wazed Ali Choudhury pointed out a lack of quorum and MLAs had to be called in from outside the House.

Congress legislator Rupjyoti Kurmi said, "There was no minister in the House for about 12 minutes, which is unprecedented. It shows the seriousness of the government, which makes claims of giving a clean and transparent administration." He said Assembly rules make the presence of ministers mandatory during discussions in the House. Ruling party MLAs, however, said the presence of ministers was not mandatory.

The debate on the motion of thanks to the governor's address was slated in the afternoon session of the Assembly.

Kurmi said cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who holds important portfolios like health, education and finance and is second-in-command in the Sarbananda Sonowal government, has not been present in the House for the past four days. Sarma is in Tripura as he is the BJP's election in-charge for the state.


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