ASSEMBLY HIJACKED BY THE GOVERNMENT! WHAT NEXT!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Unprecedented. Unheard of. Undemocratic. But true. The Orissa Government has hijacked the Assembly. What next!

The last session of Orissa Assembly was severely affected by officially provoked disturbances that helped the government escape public gaze. This time the Opposition was conscious of that ploy and had planned to concentrate on debates so that the Government would stand exposed.

But perhaps Naveen Patnaik had a different plan.

The period preceding this session is marked for many such events that deserve Assembly attention. The Chief Minister has been compelled to drop Kalandi Behera, who as the excise minister had transformed the department into a synonym of hooch; but to whom, in spite of that, he was protecting.

He has been compelled to drop Damodar Raut because he was supporting a bureaucrat who being a ghost share-holder of a newspaper had tried to expose in the same newspaper the role of payola in promoting POSCO in Orissa. Raut has been dropped and the bureaucrat has been transferred. But the allegation on payola has never been countered!

Most of his colleagues in the legislative wing are bitterly dissatisfied with the Government. It was clearly visible when in the last session, the Opposition having boycotted the House, the treasury bench members being the only ones to participate in debates were competing amongst themselves to surpass each other in castigating the government for maladministration and corruption.

So, during the last session, his supporters had made it clear that they know how wrongly the Government is running and that they were worried over the bad state of affairs.

By this session nothing has changed to change their opinion.

On the other hand, he knows that his party is hunted by factionalism. Clash of personality amongst the coastal area heavyweights of his party is well known; but it is so bitter even in the western belt that he could not dare to prefer any one of his western Orissa colleagues for the coveted post of Chairman of the Western Orissa Development Council, which ultimately went to a retired person.

A dozen of MoU signed with so much fanfare have been terminated in the mean time. This exposes the inherent weakness of this government. It goes on signing MoU with private industries without proper application of mind.

The University Grants Commission had offered to establish a National Institute of Science at Bhubaneswar in 2003. It could not materialize because the State government failed to allot only a hundred acres of land in appropriate time. But in a single day it has offered a vast stretch of eight thousand acres of land on the highly sensitive sea shore between Puri and Konark to Anil Agrawal, so that he can operate under his proprietorship a private technological university

This is bad because, among many other reasons, its impact on Orissa’s own technological universities like BPUT and OUAT has not and never been studied.

It is bad because this vast and rare stretch of very valuable land on the unique sea shore of the State is being squandered away even though the Government has not yet framed a techno-education policy and the people have never authorized Naveen for this type of land allocation.

After the last session of the Assembly he has welcomed Anil Ambani for establishment of an ultra mega power plant. It is we who had first drawn public attention to the possible power famine in Orissa and had insisted that the Government should place the State’s claim for a plant of this category as the Central Government was going ahead in offering such plants to other States.

And to our credit, we alone reacted to Assembly ignorance in this matter and we are the only one in the media world of Orissa so far who have harped on this matter with documented and prudent pleadings.

Therefore we know that the cardinal line in the guideline for establishment of such a plant, which would voraciously eat away natural resources of a State, is that the investor must be selected through global tenders sans any ambiguity or affinity.

But Naveen has not selected Ambani on global comparison. On the contrary, he has pressed the State machinery in his service even to the extent of offering him a warm Official welcome as if the subjects were welcoming their Emperor.

All this happened in between the last and the current sessions of the Assembly. And it cannot be said that nothing unusual has happened. Hence whatever has happened can be scrutinized by the Assembly.

Moreover, the jettisoned Ministers are rightfully entitled to put their statements on records in the Assembly to show as to why and under what circumstances they had to quit their chairs. If they invoke this entitlement, no body knows to which direction the matter might proceed.

Under such circumstances, there was nothing unusual in apprehending that events like this may drag debates to their midst if the House is allowed to run. So there is nothing unusual on part of the ruling group to take such steps that may divert attention from the real issues to peripherals.

One such step might be destruction of the Biju statue.

As is seen, just about the Assembly was to commence, a statue of Biju Patnaik was commissioned in a dense BJD base at a place called Raghunathpur. Soon after its inauguration by the Chief Minister, it was reportedly destroyed.

BJD workers immediately jumped into action and blocked public roads at different places and at the top, the Chief Minister alleged that Congress was involved with the crime.

He informed the Press that the Police have arrested the miscreants who have confessed their crime. They, according to him, belong to Congress.

He has, however, not said that Congress, as a party, is involved with the destruction. He has also not said if the arrested persons are enrolled as members of the Congress party and if any such identity cards that establish their Congress connection are recovered from them.

However, whether or not they belong to Congress, if they have admitted that they have destroyed the Biju statute, and if there is any Law to take action against them for that, it was the duty of the Chief Minister to tell his followers to stop further tampering with public tranquility, as the Law and Order machinery, having taken the persons allegedly concerned into custody, was to proceed without pressure. But instead of doing this, he has preferred his yes men obstruct transaction of the Assembly business!

It is unprecedented and unthinkable. It is the responsibility of the Chief Minister, as leader of the House, to ensure that it transacts its business as scheduled. But from the zero hour today, which is in reality the first working day (the initial day having closed after obituary mentions), the members of the treasury benches have hijacked the House and stopped its proceeding!

If Naveen Patnaik himself has not instigated his party members to obstruct the Assembly, then it would look like he has lost his leadership. If so, how and why should he continue to be recognized as the leader? But it is sure that he has not lost his leadership. So it is clear that he has instigated the members to obstruct the House.

I read in it a conspiracy aimed at achieving two purposes. One, to cultivate fear psychosis amongst critics of Biju Patnaik developing him in this process into a cult figure so that notwithstanding all the failings Naveen would continue to have a support base and two, to succeed in stalling the Assembly by provokating the Opposition

It will be a bad precedence if the House fails to take this unheard of misconduct into cognizance.

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