Opposition protests against removal of MLAs from district panels
Maharashtra Finance Minister Ajit Pawar's maiden budget speech in the Assembly on Wednesday was drowned out by the Opposition's unprecedented ruckus and slogan-shouting which lasted the entire duration of his presentation.
The speech was read out amidst cacophony of anti-government slogans, clapping and jeering for over an hour and 20 minutes by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena, and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Mr. Pawar's speech was barely audible.
The Opposition was incensed that MLAs were removed as presidents of district committees to implement the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and demanded that they be reinstated immediately. Speaker Dilip Walse Patil's appeal to allow the speech went in vain. He said that the budget must be presented under any circumstances and asked Mr. Pawar to go ahead with it. Some members of the Shiv Sena, the BJP and the MNS sat in the well, while others crowded together and shouted slogans. Some carried a banner and stuck posters on the Legislature Secretary's desk.
Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse, who spoke before the budget was read out, said that MLAs were upset that they were removed from key district committees and “the Opposition seems to have no role in implementing any of the local government programmes.” The decision to remove MLAs as heads of the district committees was taken last year after complaints of corruption.
Proceedings were adjourned during Question Hour and later on this issue. In the winter session, the Speaker had asked the government to clarify the State's position within two days. However, the BJP and other parties said that till date the government had not taken a decision on reinstating MLAs on the district committees.
Before the budget speech, the House was repeatedly adjourned and Sudhir Mungantiwar (BJP) threatened that the Opposition would boycott the speech. Deputy Speaker Vasant Purke and Minister for Labour Hasan Mushrif tried to calm down the Opposition members who stood firm. Mr. Mushrif said that the government would put up a favourable proposal before the Cabinet within eight days and a decision would be taken then. However, the Opposition was unrelenting and insisted on an immediate announcement.
The Congress and its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), condemned the disruption of the speech by the Opposition. Shashikant Shinde (NCP) said that all the MLAs who shouted slogans should be suspended. Sanjay Dutt, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary, said that a sacrosanct occasion of the budget was used by Opposition members to score brownie points. The Opposition did not observe key sentiments of democracy, he added.
Mr. Pawar said that they could have used some other means to convey their protest and the government was not averse to considering their demands.