Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
It is not that the Orissa Assembly is so very busy that it has no time for debates on Law Bills and Demands. But it has passed certain Bills and the Demands without the desired debates thereon. The Assembly is reduced to a political junkyard.
This nasty situation could have been avoided had the Government been a bit responsible in its response to the Opposition demand for a just and necessary discussion on chit fund scam that has put around 25% of the State’s population in drastic financial loss and has put the Chief Minister and the ruling party in terrible loss of credibility.
None other than the Government is responsible for the loss of its credibility. When depositors found that they have been cheated by the chit fund swindlers, they knew that they had been tempted to make their trysts with the chit fund operators only because the Government of Naveen Patnaik had appeared as their patron and Sri Patnaik himself also had posed as promoter of the major ones of them like the SeaShore, even after being notified by the appropriate machinery of the Central Government about their dubious conduct. The second most spectacular reason of loss of the Government’s credibility is found in its opposition to CBI investigation into the chit fund felony. Naveen Patnaik’s Government had spent about half a crore of Rupees on lawyers to obstruct the Supreme Court from ordering for CBI enquiry, claiming that neither any minister and/or leader of the ruling party nor any functionary of the Government was involved with the chit funds; whereas the CBI has already put some of the close colleagues of the CM – both political and executive – under the grip of law, for their discernible and/or suspected Role in the chit fund scam.
When this loss of credibility of the Government was posing a threat to mana of democracy, it was natural for the Opposition to demand a discussion on chit fund in supersession of all other businesses. It should have been the best for the Leader of the House – the Chief Minister himself – to come forward with how the Government looks at the issue, and with the details of the actions taken by the Government in the matter so far, and proposed action, if any, it wants to take. The Chief Minister should have helped the Assembly with a proper, fair and honest debate that could have helped the affected people to understand where they really stand vis-a-vis the chit fund operators. But, sadly, that never happened. All nasty tricks were used to debar the House from having the accounts of the Government in the matter. The result has paralyzed the Assembly in matters of accountability of the Government for eleven working days till today, whereas it is increasingly being felt that the ruling party is derailing the House in order only to help the Chief Minister escape public gaze.
Significantly, the Speaker has become a party to subjugation of the Assembly Members’ right to speak in the Assembly on matters of urgent public importance. In respect to desirability of debate on chit fund felony, he wanted advice of the Advocate General in the matter and the AG reportedly advised that, no debate, either through any motion or demand-discussion, should be allowed on chit fund. This has pushed the issue into a turn towards the worse.
In public perception, the Speaker of the Assembly, who owes his berth in the House to the ruling party, and has every reason to stay grateful to the Chief Minister for the position he is holding, has been helping the CM by subjugating the sovereignty of the House to overlordship of the Advocate General who has vested interest in blocking the debate on chit fund. The Leader of the Opposition has condemned the reliance put on the AG, as, before accepting the assignment, he was the advocate of the chit fund set-up SeaShore, which is a major object of CBI investigation. Inability of the Speaker to remove the blockage on normal proceeding of the House has earned objurgation even from a senior member of the Cabinet Dr. Damodar Raut. Of course, after a day of putting on records his strong disapproval of the Speaker’s action, Raut has taken a U-turn.
In its history, the Orissa Assembly had never fallen in such a situation of abnormality. Nobody knows how its normalcy would be restored unless the government educates itself to be answerable.