Budget session shortened but motion against Speaker to be taken up on January 21

The last Budget Session of the 14th Kerala Legislature has been cut short. The session, which began on January 8 and was scheduled till January 28, will now conclude on January 22. The decision has been taken by the Business Advisory Committee of the Assembly on Monday.

The abbreviated session but will set apart two hours on January 21 to discuss a resolution seeking the removal of Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan. This is the third time in history that a no-confidence motion against a Speaker would be taken up in the Kerala Assembly. Earlier two Congress speakers - A C Jose and Vakkom Purushothasmasn - were at the receiving end.

Nonetheless, both the motions were defeated. Like the earlier two motions against the Speaker, the UDF knows this too would be defeated but the strategy is to keep the corruption charges alive in the public domain.

The official reason given for the shortening of the session is the need to reduce the exposure of members to COVID-19, which continues to rage in Kerala. Senior minister A K Balan has been hospitalised with COVID-19. The time for discussion on both the Governor's address and the Budget will now be cut short; three days each were set apart for discussion on the Governor's address and the Budget.

Top sources said if the Opposition had gone with the government proposal to abridge the current session, it was only because its major political demand for a no-confidence motion against Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan has been granted. It will now be held for two hours from 2pm on January 21, the day before the concluding day of the current session.

The Speaker had refused to allow a motion of no-confidence against him in August last year citing procedural lapses. But this time, Sreeramakrishnan had said that Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) member M Ummer’s notice to the Legislative Secretary asking for discussion on a resolution seeking his removal was “in order”. As is mandatory, Ummer had issued the notice 14 days before the start of the session.

In this notice, Ummer had said that the Speaker had lowered the esteem of the Assembly by associating with the accused in the gold smuggling that exploited the cover of diplomatic channels. Ummer argued that by allowing his constitutional office to be so utilised by criminal elements, the Speaker had brought disrepute to the Assembly.

During the discussion on the no-confidence motion, the Speaker will have to leave his chair on the podium and take his seat among the members. Deputy Speaker V Sasi will control the proceedings. Sreeramakrishnan will also get the opportunity to respond to the charges levelled against him.

Last August, the Speaker had allowed a no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against the LDF government. The seven-hour discussion ended with a nearly three-hour reply speech by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that did not touch upon any of the major allegations raised by the UDF.

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