The Bihar assembly on Wednesday witnessed an unusual angry exchange between the Speaker and a member of the state cabinet. Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, who was a minister himself in the previous NDA government, was visibly shaken at the disdain shown towards the Chair by Samrat Chaudhary who holds the Panchayati Raj portfolio.
Nearly half an hour after the proceedings began at 11 am, Chaudhary rose to reply to a starred question from an MLA. The minister was told by the speaker that departments were also supposed to send replies online to his office but the same was not received for the question.
“You check it. The reply must be there. Out of 16 questions related to my department, replies for 14 have been sent online”, Chaudhary said dismissively. Sinha pointed out that his office was in receipt of “only 11” replies till morning to which Chaudhary said “vyakul hone se kaam nahin chalega” (getting restless will not do).
The speaker felt slighted and asked the minister to “take back” his words even though Chaudhary dug in his heels and, waving a finger towards the Chair, said “you cannot run the House in this fashion”. Unable to take it any longer, Sinha ordered adjournment of the proceedings till noon.
At 12 pm, when the house reassembled, JD(U) MLA Narendra Narayan Yadav occupied the chair while Sinha chose to remain inside his chamber, understandably in a sulk. Yadav informed the house that matters scheduled to be raised during the Zero Hour would be referred to the committee concerned while calling attention motions scheduled for the day will now be taken up on Friday, March 19.
The house was, subsequently, adjourned till 2 pm. In the post-lunch session, the speaker was back and minister for parliamentary affairs Vijay Kumar Chaudhary rose and requested that Samrat Chaudhary would like to express regret for the “unintentional insult” to the Chair. Samrat Chaudhary rose and offered a brief apology after which normal business resumed.
The humiliation faced by the speaker, who incidentally belongs to the BJP like the minister, earned him sympathy among the opposition. CPI(ML) MLA Mahboob Alam and Congress legislator Shakeel Ahmed Khan demanded sacking of Samrat Chaudhary from the cabinet for the disrespect shown by him for the chair.
BJP sources said on condition of anonymity that there have been consternations over attempts by Sinha, a third term MLA who was a minister in the previous government, to rub his own party colleagues the wrong way in a bid to appear “impartial”. They pointed towards expression of dismay by Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishor Prasad a couple of days ago when he alleged that the chair was extending “sanrakshan” (patronage) to the belligerent leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav.
The opposition, on its part, has been charging that the treasury benches have been trying to “dictate to the chair”. Caught in the crossfire, the speaker had come out with a statement on the floor of the house Tuesday asserting that charges leveled by the opposition as well as the treasury benches were “baseless”.
“Those who resolve to act in a transparent manner, cannot keep all happy..let us remember, the world is ephemeral. All those who have been born have to die. We will be remembered for our actions once we are gone”, the speaker had said in the emotionally worded statement.