Democracy took a back seat in Bihar, as Opposition legislators indulged in unruly behaviour for the second consecutive day in the Assembly on Wednesday, stalling proceedings.
The Opposition was demanding the resignations of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi over alleged irregularities, amounting to Rs. 11,412 crore, in developmental schemes.
Hysterical scenes marred most of the afternoon session, as Opposition legislators attacked the Speaker of the Assembly and the Chairman of the Legislative Council, all under media glare.
In all, 67 legislators were suspended and marshalled out for disrupting proceedings and indulging in unparliamentary behaviour.
With violence being the order of the day, the main issue of conducting a debate on the alleged irregularities was relegated to the background. Leader of the Opposition Rabri Devi was absent for the third consecutive day.
The morning session began with the Opposition legislators, who had been sitting in dharna on the Assembly premises since last night, creating a rumpus in the well of the House.
When they refused to allow any transaction of business, Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary suspended the session and marshalled the entire Opposition out. Even as he did so, a legislator flung a slipper at him.
Similar scenes were witnessed in the Council; an RJD MLC hurled a microphone at Tara Kant Jha, Chairman of the House, leading to a bout of fisticuffs between Opposition and ruling party legislators. Congress member Jyoti Kumari went on the rampage outside the Council, destroying flower pots and spewing expletives at Mr. Jha.
Condemning the incident, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said: “We have been repeatedly telling them [the Opposition] that the State government is ready to debate any issue pertaining to the alleged irregularities, answer any question, be it on AC bills or DC bills.”
Ruling party legislators urged Mr. Jha to initiate proceedings against those who indulged in unruly behaviour, even as the Speaker urged them to show restraint.
“There was no need for the entire Opposition to be dragged out in this fashion. Sushil Modi told the Speaker that the House was in disorder, but that was not the case. We were protesting well within constitutional rules,” said RJD State president Abdul Bari Siddiqui.
Political observers, however, said the unabashed display of violence — carefully orchestrated for TV channels and the local media — would boomerang on the Opposition, which was desperately seeking an “anti-Nitish agenda” prior to the Assembly elections.
Later in the evening, Mr. Chaudhary issued a ruling that the Patna High Court had “no authority to direct a probe by any agency, including the CBI, as long as the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's (CAG) report were yet to be examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).”
The ruling was issued after Mr. Modi addressed the House, emphasising that under Articles 233-239, “until the CAG report has been considered by the PAC, no question of the audit report is permitted to be read out in the House.”
The government on Monday sought a stay of the July 15 High Court directive requesting a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities. It filed an interlocutory petition asking whether a court could order any agency to conduct a probe on the basis of the CAG report.