The United Democratic Front (UDF) government suffered a major embarrassment in the Kerala Assembly on Monday when the Opposition raised a furore over leak of budget proposals and the Speaker directed the government to conduct an inquiry to see how portions of Finance Minister K.M. Mani's budget speech were the same as those appearing in a newspaper.
Raising the issue as soon as the House assembled, the Opposition wanted the matter to be looked into before the budget for 2012-13 was presented. Although Speaker G. Karthikeyan allowed the Finance Minister to go ahead with presentation of the budget, he later virtually concurred with the Opposition saying that while some portions of the newspaper report in question were only vaguely similar to parts of the budget speech, some other portions appeared to be exactly similar to those in the speech.
Earlier, the Opposition members held up copies of the newspaper in question containing what they contended were portions of the budget speech, particularly so when he announced the proposal to raise the age of superannuation of State employees and teachers to 56 years from the present 55 years. Although Mr. Mani initially tried to laugh it off, every time he announced something that had already found its way into the newspaper, the Opposition members were on their feet. Once the Finance Minister concluded his speech, Mr. Karthikeyan pointed out that the practice followed in the House and in Parliament was to have budget leaks inquired into by the government. He asked the government to do so and report back to the House.
The House also witnessed noisy protests and a demonstration by the Opposition members in the well of the House when the proposal for pegging the retirement age at 56 years was announced. Several young LDF members were soon in the aisle of the House protesting against the proposal. Shortly, they moved into the well of the House and squatted there for the entire duration of the budget speech raising slogans against the UDF government.