Assembly proceedings were called off prematurely on Monday after the Opposition UDF members, seemingly angered by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's silence on the highhandedness of the police, rushed to the base of the Speaker's dais and made it difficult for him to conduct business.
The House had just reconvened after it was suspended for 25 minutes after heated exchanges between the ruling and opposition benches. Chaos ruled after the backbenchers in the ruling side kept interrupting Opposition Leader V D Satheesan repeatedly. Finding that his entreaties were falling on deaf ears, Speaker A N Shamseer had walked out of the House hoping that a brief suspension would bring things back to normal.
When the Speaker returned after 25 minutes, the Opposition Leader had a pointed poser for the Chief Minister. He wanted to know whether the Chief Minister was willing to take action against the circle inspector who had brutally assaulted the female Youth Congress activist Miva Jolly and later attempted to manhandle Youth Congress president and MLA Shafi Parambil at Kalamassery on February 11. "He went after Youth Congress activists like a man gone crazy," Satheesan said. On that day 11 Youth Congress activists were arrested for waving black flags at the Chief Minister's convoy at Kalamassery, Ernakulam.
Satheesan repeated the question. "I want to know from the Chief Minister whether he would take action against this police officer," Satheesan said.
The Chief Minister sat unmoving, not bothering to respond. "We take this as a sign that you are not willing to act. It will be difficult for us to cooperate in such a situation," Satheesan said. The Opposition Leader's words worked like a cue.
Immediately, the UDF members trooped to the base of the Speaker's podium carrying anti-government banners and placards and shouting slogans.
This made it difficult for the Speaker to conduct proceedings. He quickened the sessions, asked ministers to table their written answers to the Submissions moved by MLAs and passed Bills without any discussions. In short, proceedings that would have taken at least seven hours were truncated to less than five minutes.
An unruly House was expected as the Assembly was reconvening at a time when the Opposition UDF was fighting the LDF government in the streets over the fuel cess and a slew of other price hikes that were announced in the Budget and after.
It was also not a surprise that the UDF made the police highhandedness against Youth Congress members at Kalamassery in Kochi as the subject of its adjournment motion on the first day the assembly resumed.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought to ridicule the Youth Congress protests saying the organisation could employ only one or two members to wave black flags at scattered locations across Kerala. Pinarayi said this indicated the poor public interest in the Youth Congress protests. "It could not convince even its own cadres to turn up in huge numbers," Pinarayi made fun of the protests.
Satheesan said if there were just one or two persons why did the police resort to widespread preventive detention of Youth Congress activists. He said even members who were fast asleep were picked up by the police in the name of preventive arrests. He said a member who was having tea was arrested.
He said the UDF would seek legal remedies if preventive arrests continue.