The Central government's decision to send a team to West Bengal rocked both Houses of Parliament on Monday, with the Left parties and the BJP accusing the UPA regime of hatching a plan to impose President's rule in the Left Front-ruled State.

The Central government’s decision to send a team to West Bengal rocked both Houses of Parliament on Monday. The Left parties and the BJP accusing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime of hatching a plan to impose President’s rule in the Left Front-ruled State.

(A Central team has since landed in Kolkata).

The Left parties raised the issue in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha as soon as they assembled for the day. They argued vociferously that the government’s decision was in “violation of the Constitution” and such a move would not be tolerated. Its members, supported by the Samajwadi Party and the BJP, indulged in slogan-shouting and both Houses witnessed disruptions.

The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned twice.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in identical statements in the Houses, said there was no need to see the Central team’s visit through the prism of Article 356. “The move to send a Central team to West Bengal is entirely non-confrontational.” The purpose was to hold discussions with State government officials and assist them in maintaining law and order. “It is non-confrontational and aimed at putting an end to inter-party clashes.”

Mr. Chidambaram said he had a “good working relationship” with the West Bengal Chief Minister. In the past few weeks, inter-party clashes took place in several districts. It was suggested that discussions among officials could be held.

CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia, who wanted suspension of question hour in the Lok Sabha to discuss the development, said sending a team to the State amounted to “murder of democracy.” He demanded to know whether a situation to impose Central rule had arisen in the State and whether law and order problem could be called internal disturbance. All the States faced such problems.

While Article 355 spoke about the duty of the Union to protect the States from external aggression and internal disturbances, Mr. Acharia wanted to know under what provision a Central team was being sent. “The move is undemocratic and autocratic.”

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the Centre’s action indicated that the functioning of an elected government would be affected and it would be prevented from carrying out its constitutional duties.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh said the government’s intentions were doubtful. If Central rule was imposed, it would set a wrong precedent. “Please assure us that there is no move to dismiss the government.”

Leader of the Opposition L K Advani cautioned against imposition of Central rule in West Bengal. Pointing out that the BJP always had sharp differences with the Left parties even in the manner in which West Bengal was being governed, Mr. Advani felt that the core issue was not sending a Central team to the State, but the possibility that Article 356 could be “abused.” He said Article 356 should not be taken lightly and it should be used only in “rarest of rare cases.”

Trinamool Congress members, led by chief whip Sudip Bandopadhyay, demanded imposition of Central rule in the State, as 130 of their partymen had been killed.

In the Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the move to send a team was in “violation of the Constitution and the federal structure.”

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said the UPA was perhaps acting under pressure from its allies.