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10 Feb 2017

Cost of one-upmanship: Rs 10 - Cloud on Trinamul plan to highlight Opposition damage in House

Youth Congress workers on Thursday protest Abdul Mannan’s suspension from the House at the Bengal Assembly’s north gate, designated for the entry of the Speaker
and the chief minister. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
Meghdeep Bhattacharyya and Sandip Chowdhury, TT, Calcutta, Feb. 9: The Bengal government's attempts to embarrass the Opposition by highlighting the damage caused during yesterday's ruckus in the Assembly might draw a blank - or rather a princely sum of Rs 10.
Sources in the Trinamul legislature party today said it planned to highlight the chaos in the Assembly yesterday and draw a parallel with the Trinamul vandalism in the House in 2006, when the then Speaker had imposed a fine on each legislator.
But many among the Assembly staff today said yesterday's ruckus had left just a bent wooden bench and a few unplugged microphones.
The Left and Congress MLAs had yesterday jostled with marshals in the Assembly after Speaker Biman Banerjee suspended the leader of the Opposition, Abdul Mannan, for refusing to take off an apron bearing pictures of Trinamul legislators vandalising the Assembly in 2006.
The ruckus started when parliamentary affairs minister Parth Chatterjee was tabling the West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which will make it mandatory for people destroying public or private property to pay compensation.
In 2006, when Trinamul legislators under then Opposition leader Mamata Banerjee had vandalised the House, then Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim had put the damages at Rs 3,97,404.
That was excluding the value of antique Burma teak furniture dating back to the British Raj era.
"The cost of yesterday's ruckus is negligible, at most Rs 10. I don't know how this can be reported to the Speaker," said an Assembly staff.
Speaker Banerjee had yesterday directed Assembly secretary Jayanta Koley to file a report on the damage.
Soon after, members of the treasury benches had secured the Speaker's permission to allow cameras inside the House so that every incident of vandalism is recorded.
A senior Trinamul leader today said the party intended to embarrass the Left and the Congress by drawing a parallel of yesterday's incident with how the then Speaker had imposed fines on the legislators in 2006.
In 2006, privilege motions had been moved against 29 Trinamul MLAs for smashing furniture and yanking microphones off consoles because Mamata had not been allowed to go to Singur, where prohibitory orders were in place.
The then Speaker Halim had fined each MLA Rs 13,704 for the damage.
"Little did we know that the amount would be so paltry. Highlighting the issue cannot be an option anymore," a Trinamul MLA said today.
Speaker Banerjee, however, did not agree with yesterday's estimate.
"I don't know how one arrived at the figure of Rs 10. It is not about the damage to the furniture. Engineers will assess over the weekend the damage to the microphone channels in several rows of the Opposition benches," he said tonight.
"It's too early to say, but it cannot be such a negligible sum. Whatever it is, I will decide on the action on the basis of the report," he told The Telegraph.
During the day, 64-year-old Mannan was transferred to a private hospital off the EM Bypass in Calcutta. Doctors said they planned to implant a permanent pacemaker tomorrow. Mannan was taken to another hospital yesterday after he jostled with the marshals in the Assembly.
Congress leaders said party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had called today to enquire about Mannan's health.

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