Protest in Bengal assembly over change in question

Kolkata: Nov 27 (IANS) - Protests marked the West Bengal assembly after Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra's question on naming a township Jyoti Basu Nagar was "arbitrarily changed".

The trouble started after the day's proceedings began with the question hour. Mishra complained to speaker Biman Banerjee the format of the query which he had submitted earlier had been "arbitrarily changed". The speaker allowed Mishra to read the question in the format he had submitted, and Minister for Urban Development Firhad Hakim replied, but the opposition was far from satisfied. Left Front members held noisy protests.

Mishra accused Hakim of misleading the house on the status of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011, passed during the erstwhile Left Front regime rechristening New Town Kolkata as Jyoti Basu Nagar. Mishra claimed Hakim had spoken a lie by saying Governor M.K. Narayanan returned the bill without giving his assent.

On the contrary, Narayanan told Left Front MLAs Tuesday he was unaware of it. The Left Front members tore papers, displayed posters against the government move to withdraw a legislation naming New Town Kolkata as Jyoti Basu Nagar, and walked into the well of the house, raising slogans. The speaker continued the business of the house, but nothing could be heard in the pandemonium, as Left Front lawmakers refused to heed Banerjee's repeated requests to return to their seats.

The Front lawmakers boycotted the house proceedings after recess, and staged a mock assembly and sit-in demonstration in the assembly premises. The treasury benches passed a resolution in the second half of the day condemning the behaviour of Mishra and other Front members. "The house strongly condemns the uncivil behaviour, distasteful comments, and the efforts of the Left Front members to prevent the speaker and the house proceedings from functioning," it said.

Later, Mishra told reporters it was a rare instance of a question put forth by a member being "distorted". "The state government is encouraging manipulation of questions (unfair means in examination) in schools and colleges and now it has brought it to the assembly," he said. Mishra said the withdrawal of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011, and its replacement by a fresh legislation that had no clause naming the township as "Jyoti Basu Nagar" was the state government's gift on the birth centenary of the late communist patriarch - who was state chief minister for 23 years - a national record.

Countering Mishra, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee accused the opposition, "particularly CPI-M", of creating disorder in the assembly. Chatterjee contended it was the right of the assembly secretariat to edit questions if they were too long. "This used to happen during my days as the leader of the opposition also.

The speaker, sticking to highest norms of parliamentary behaviour, allowed Mishra to speak, but he responded by tearing apart the question". "Everything was done in a planned and motivated manner, led by Mishra. This cannot continue. We want good debates in the assembly where everybody should participate," he said. 

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