Treasury benches empty, free run for ‘graft’ fire
Treasury benches were virtually empty in the Bengal Assembly on the third day of the monsoon session on Tuesday, giving the Opposition a free run in hitting out at the Mamata Banerjee administration over the cut-money row.
“Look at our side. All the benches are empty… There is hardly anyone of significance on the treasury benches,” said a Trinamul MLA.
A handful of ministers, including Partha Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee, Javed Khan, Shashi Panja, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Tapas Roy, Ashis Banerjee and Sujit Bose were seen on Tuesday. But except Panja, Khan, Banerjee and Bhattacharya, most others were not seen through the day.
Chief government whip Nirmal Ghosh was forced to issue a whip to Trinamul MLAs to ensure healthy attendance from Wednesday. “At least six ministers should be present in the House. But there were moments when the numbers were going down and I had to call a few of the ministers from their Assembly chambers,” Ghosh said. He added that around 50 Trinamul MLAs were present on Tuesday, though the number was barely 20 in the post-lunch session.
The poor attendance became a talking point in the Opposition. “The MLAs of the ruling party have realised their days are numbered and that’s why they have lost interest in attending the House,” said the BJP’s Manoj Tigga.
Dulal Bar, a Congress MLA who recently defected to the BJP, said he saw posters around the Assembly with the words “Cut Money = CM”.
Leader of the Opposition, the Congress’s Abdul Mannan, piled on the heat. “The government should immediately set up a commission to identify who had taken cut money for welfare schemes.”