Special Correspondent

House amends BAC decision; discussions to take place on February 21

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Assembly will hold separate discussions on the references in the Comptroller and Auditor General's reports on the renovation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects and the augmentation of the Kuttiadi hydroelectric scheme, both involving the Canadian firm SNC Lavalin.

The decision to hold the short-duration discussions on the two topics was taken at a meeting of legislature party leaders convened by Speaker Therambil Ramakrishnan after an hour-long procedural wrangle in the House during zero hour on Thursday. While the ruling United Democratic Front insisted on a discussion on CAG's observations on the deal with SNC Lavalin in the report for 2004-05, the Opposition took the stance that if at all there was to be a discussion, it should cover the CAG's observations on the deal with SNC Lavalin for the Kuttiadi Augmentation Scheme, contained in the report for 2003-04. The CAG had, in the 2003-04 report, criticised the manner in which the Kuttiadi Augmentation Scheme was executed spending around Rs.200 crores.

The Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the House had decided on Wednesday not to have any discussion on CAG's observations on the renovation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydel schemes, as sought by M.M. Hassan (Congress) immediately after the CAG report was tabled in the Assembly on Monday. However, when the BAC report came up for consideration by the House on Thursday morning, Mr. Hassan took the Opposition by surprise by pressing his demand for a discussion on the Lavalin deal. By then, senior CPI(M) leaders had left the House to attend the CPI(M) State committee meeting. During the procedural wrangle that lasted nearly half-an-hour, the truncated Opposition put up a valiant fight against the ruling Front's attempt to push through the amendment.

The Opposition morale got a boost with the arrival of CPI(M) Legislature Party deputy leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, secretary T.M. Thomas Isaac and other senior leaders in the House. Mr. Balakrishnan warned the Government that if it went ahead with the decision to have the discussion on the Lavalin deal without heeding the Opposition demand, it would be a dark day in the history of the Assembly. The Opposition was ready to sit for a few more days to discuss as many issues as the treasury benches wanted.

Finally, the Speaker invited the Opposition leaders to his chamber for a discussion where it was decided to have the two discussions on February 21.

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