Massive uproar over corruption, Mufti leads walkout in Assembly

Massive uproar over corruption, Mufti leads walkout in Assembly

24 February 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) MLAs today disrupted Question Hour in the Legislative Assembly initially protesting near their seats and then trooping into Well of the House before staging a walk-out from the House, which was led by former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and PDP Legislature Party leader, Mehbooba Mufti demanding suspension of the proceedings to discuss what they called the 'extra ordinary situation’’ that has arisen due to issuance of notices by the State Accountability Commission (SAC) to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, his two Cabinet colleagues-Abdul Rahim Rather (Finance Minister) and Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed (Public Enterprises Minister) and various Chairpersons-Vice Chairpersons of Boards-Corporations. Even as Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone went ahead with Question Hour, the PDP members didn’t raise the questions listed against their names while most of other questions and replies by the Ministers were lost in the din created in the House by the protesting PDP MLAs, who intermittently raised slogans against the corruption. Mr Lone and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar repeatedly reminded the PDP MLAs that they had promised in all party meeting before start of the session and the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting, held yesterday, that they wouldn’t disrupt Question Hour and raise the issues only after the Question Hour was finished. The PDP MLAs including Mehbooba Mufti, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Abdul Gaffar Sofi, Javed Mustafa Mir, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, Basharat Bukhari, Abdul Haq Khan, Zulfikar Ali, Peer Mansoor Shah and others said they had moved the adjournment motion, which under the Parliamentary proceedings has to be decided before the Question Hour as it had sought adjournment of entire business of the House today to discuss the issue of corruption. The PDP members were on their feet right from the start of proceedings for the day. Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the PDP patron, joined the proceedings about five minutes later. However, the Mufti, PDP Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti and veteran party leader Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari remained confined to their seats as other legislators protested. Ms Mufti joined the issue quite often from her seat but didn’t troop into the Well as she had been doing in the previous sessions. Former Deputy Chief Minister and PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was not present in the House. The PDP members were shouting slogans like 'PDP Ka Ek Sawaal, Paisay Kha Gaya Kon Dalaal’, ‘Corrupt Sarkaar Hai Hai’, 'Logon Kay Paisay Ka Hisaab Do, Hisaab Do’, 'Loot Ka Hissab Do, Hissab Do’, 'Kaumi Daulat Ka Hissab Do, Hisaab Do’, 'Bade Sawaal Ka Jawaab Do, Jawaab Do’ and 'Loot Ka Hissab Do, Ali Baba Jawaab Do’. During hour long turmoil in the Assembly, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a brief appearance in the House. Excepting Mr Sagar, who took on the PDP members on a couple of occasions, no other NC or Congress coalition Ministers or legislators countered the PDP charges on corruption even after the Question Hour. The two Ministers referred to by the PDP-Mr Rather and Peerzada were present on their seats throughout the Question Hour though no question pertaining to their departments had been listed today. While the PDP members insisted on the Chair’s verdict on their adjournment motion immediately, the Speaker said he has received the motion well in time but would give his ruling only after the Question Hour. ‘‘In just 12 hours, you have forgotten the promise made in yesterday’s Business Advisory Committee meeting that the Question Hour wouldn’t be disrupted’’, Mr Lone said and asked the PDP to go by the unanimous decision. ‘‘I’m sorry if you backtrack from your own decision’’, he said and asked Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, MLA Jammu West to go ahead with his question. Tourism Minister Rigzin Jora replied to the first question. Almost all 18 starred questions were taken up during the Question Hour as PDP MLAs neither raised their questions nor asked the supplementaries. Most of the replies given to the questions by the Ministers including Mr Jora and Mr Sagar were lost in the din, which prompted Prof Gupta to ask the Speaker whether the Question Hour will go on or the uproar created by the PDP. Surprisingly, no opposition members from Jammu including BJP, NPP, JSM and BJP rebels supported the PDP on the issue of debate on corruption by adjourning the business. As NPP Legislature Party leader Harshdev Singh stood up to ask question on model villages, PDP legislator Nizam-ud-Din Bhat remarked ‘‘at least this was not expected of Harshdev’’. Several times during the protests and sloganeering by the PDP members in the Question Hour, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar had heated exchanged with the PDP members. ‘‘They (the PDP members) were doing just politics…negative politics…settling personal scores. They were least cared about the public and their sufferings. Had they been concerned about the people, they would have been on their seats raising their issues’’, Mr Sagar said. He reminded PDP MLA Nizam-ud-Din Bhat that already he had apologized in the House for his allegations of kickbacks against the Government. In the midst of protests, the Speaker made another appeal to the PDP MLAs to take their seats saying he had called the leaders of all opposition parties to his chamber before start of the session and sought their co-operation in smooth running of the House, which had been promised. ‘‘The members were answerable to the people. There has been massive expenditure on proceedings of the House. You have leveled allegations against the Government, which can be raised issue wise after the Question Hour. This process was not good. The BJP, NPP and JSM have allowed Question Hour to go on and then raise their issues. You have violated commitment on smooth working of the House, left seats and have now trooped into Well of the House’’, Mr Lone lamented. During protests from their chairs and later in Well of the House, where the PDP MLAs had been surrounded by the Marshals, PDP leader and former Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri wanted to know that why the Government was shying away from discussion on the corruption. ‘‘It was for the first time that a Government was not even ready to discuss the sensitive issue like corruption. The Government has brought No. 1 tag to Jammu and Kashmir on corruption’’, Mr Veeri said. PDP MLA Syed Bashir said ‘‘every Department was being looted’’. Just before the end of Question Hour, the Speaker allowed Nizam-ud-Din Bhat to raise his point from Well of the House, where he had been protesting along with other PDP MLAs. This was objected to by Mr Sagar, who pointed out that it had never been in history of the Legislature that a member has been allowed to speak from Well of the House. Mr Bhat wanted to know whether the Speaker considered the PDP’s adjournment motion on corruption as ‘‘extra ordinary situation or not’’. He wanted a ruling on the matter from the Speaker. Mr Lone reiterated that it had been a consensus decision of all parties that the Question Hour wouldn’t be disrupted whether it was a normal or abnormal situation. As the Question Hour was drawing to a close by 11 am, Mehbooba Mufti stood up from the seat saying that corruption was not an issue for the Government after which all PDP MLAs led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti staged a walkout from the Assembly. Later speaking to reporters outside the Assembly, Mehbooba Mufti charged Omar Abdullah led coalition Government with adopting corruption as a policy and alleged that Central funds had been siphoned off in the State. 'It seems corruption has become a policy of the State Government,' she said Apart from corruption, the money, which is coming from the Centre is being siphoned off by certain corrupt Ministers for their own constituencies, she said. Mehbooba said the SAC has issued notices to Omar Abdullah, his Advisors, various Chairpersons of Boards and two Cabinet colleagues. There had been charges that even Union Minister and NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah had favoured his relatives and given them ' 16 crore worth contract, she added. ‘‘We have seen the fate of Yousuf Shah (the National Conference worker), who was killed in custody. Whatever crime, corruption, there has been no accountability. The Chief Minister is in dock. His Ministers are in dock. Still, the Government was not ready to discuss the issues’’, Mehbooba said. She added that the Ministers were siphoning off the funds. Whatever funds were left, they were being used in the constituencies of Ministers for opening of health centres, construction of roads and other schemes, she alleged. The PDP stayed away from proceedings of the House after the walkout today. The main opposition party didn’t take part in discussion on Governor’s Address in the Assembly today.