At least two Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) legislators and a few Watch and Ward officials were hospitalised after they reported faintness and body pain following a fracas in the Kerala Legislative Assembly on Monday.
Trouble in the house
Trouble broke out in the House when Speaker A. N. Shamsheer denied Congress legislator Uma Thomas leave to move an adjournment notice under Rule 50 to discuss the law enforcement’s “failure” to arrest those responsible for the attack on a girl student at Chengottukonam on the capital’s outskirts recently.
Mr. Shamsheer deemed the issue trivial to warrant a rule 50 notice and denied the motion outright, triggering a strident UDF protest.
Opposition legislators trooped into the House’s well, raising anti-government slogans and holding banners, throwing the proceedings into disarray.
They engaged the treasury benches in an across-the-aisle shouting match, drowning Mr. Shamsheer’s entreaties for calm.
The Speaker rushed ahead with the day’s business, even as the UDF protest intensified.
Public Works Department Minister P. A. Mohammed Riyas’s seemingly off-the-cuff comment that the opposition lacked spine and was Sangh Parivar’s stooge exacerbated tempers.
Blocking the Speaker
In a rarely witnessed move, UDF legislators boycotted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Rule 300 statement on the Brahmapuram fire, filed out of the House and staged a sit-in protest on the corridor leading to the Speaker’s chamber.
UDF legislators tried to block Mr. Shamsheer when he attempted to enter his office after hurrying through the day’s business.
The Watch and Ward was deployed near the Speaker’s office to pre-empt trouble.
At least two LDF protestors arrived at the scene supporting Mr. Shamsheer, enraging opposition legislators further.
The wardens hustled Congress legislators M. Vincent and Saji Joseph and M. M. Ashraf (Indian Union Muslim League) away from the spot, causing the opposition to cry foul and accuse the law enforcers of manhandling them at the government’s behest.
The wardens removed Congress legislator Saneesh Kumar, who felt fuzzy amid the raucous protest, from the spot on a gurney. Mr. Kumar later accused the wardens of stomping him viciously.
The UDF later accused the wardens of “manhandling” Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) legislator K. K. Rema and Congress veteran Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, MLA.
Opposition leader’s charges
Leader of Opposition V. D. Satheesan alleged that the personal staff of Ministers jostled UDF legislators as if on a cue from the government.
He accused Mr. Shamsheer of making a virtue of denying the opposition inalienable legislative rights to win brownie points with Mr. Vijayan.
Mr. Satheesan slammed Mr. Riyas for the comment and alleged the Minister had benefitted from Mr. Vijayan’s decision to “branch stack” the cabinet with a family member.
Mr. Satheesan accused Mr. Shamsheer of shielding Mr. Vijayan from answering the opposition’s discomfiting questions about the corruption and nepotism that resulted in the Brahmapuram blaze.
Later, Mr. Satheesan visited the “injured” legislators at the General Hospital and called an emergency meeting of the UDF legislative party. Mr. Vijayan called on Mr. Shamsheer in the latter’s office later.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) organising secretary, T. U. Radhakrishnan, condemned the “assault” on UDF legislators and called for State-wide protests against the Speaker’s “trespass” on the opposition’s rights.