Kerala Assembly Budget session guillotined. Major bills passed without discussion

Kerala Assembly in session. Screengrab: Sabha TV/Manorama News

Thiruvananthapuram: The Opposition UDF will not be able to go ahead with its "indefinite satyagraha" inside the Assembly against the LDF's government's allegedly undemocratic ways.

The long eighth session of the 15th Kerala Assembly, which was scheduled till March 30, was guillotined by Speaker A N Shamseer on Tuesday. The House, which should have sat for nearly 30 days has now disbanded after 21 days, nearly half of which were turbulent.

Four bills, which were to be taken up individually in the subsequent days, were passed in less than five minutes without even a word of discussion on Tuesday.

These included the Kerala Finance Bill, which will usher in the two-rupee fuel cess, and the Kerala Public Health Bill, which is a comprehensive legislation that seeks to bring all existing public health legislations under a uniform law.

Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Amendment Bill, 2023, and Kerala Municipality (Amendment) Bill, 2023, are the other pieces of legislation that were rushed through amid Opposition shouts.

It was the UDF move to begin an indefinite stir inside the House that seems to have forced the government's hand. In fact, the Business Advisory Committee that met on March 20 in the presence of the Speaker and the Chief Minister was determined to go ahead with the Assembly proceedings.

Though the Speaker on March 20 promised that their right to move adjournment motions would be protected, the Opposition insisted on such an assurance coming from the Chief Minister himself. Further, the UDF wanted what it calls the "fake" non-bailable charges foisted on UDF MLAs withdrawn.

The Assembly proceedings were thrown into disarray after the Speaker started rejecting the adjournment motions moved by the UDF. Shamseer rejected UDF notices for four consecutive days, the first time for the Kerala Assembly.

The rejected motions related to tax leakage, KSRTC woes, police brutality in the aftermath of the Brahmapuram fire and police apathy towards violence against women.

The serial rejections of UDF notices began after Congress MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan provoked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by reading out from the Enforcement Directorate remand report the WhatsApp chats of his close aides with gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh. Kuzhalnadan was moving an adjournment motion on the Wadakkanchery Life Mission bribery scandal on February 28.

Both had a heated exchange of words on the day, and for the first time, the House witnessed a first-time MLA returning the Chief Minister's angry outbursts with an equally powerful battery of words.

The Chief Minister was then heard asking the Speaker whether he was not listening to the wild charges made by the member. This was widely interpreted as a rebuke.

Till then, the Speaker had given the impression of being commendable fair in the way he managed the Assembly. After the CM-Kuzhalnadan war of words, Shamseer has demonstrated a clear intolerance for the Opposition.

The UDF alleged that the Speaker was functioning like a stooge of the Chief Minister. The UDF argument was that its sharp interventions in the Assembly were causing serious discomfort for the ruling side, especially the Chief Minister.

Furious at the repeated rejections, the UDF sprang a surprise on March 15 by staging a mock adjournment motion in the well of the House, complete with a Speaker and Chief Minister. The Speaker later said he never expected the Opposition to stage such a mock Assembly, which according to him cast a shadow on the exalted traditions of the Kerala Assembly.

Even General Education Minister V Sivankutty, who had in 2013 run over the chairs and desks of the Assembly like a troublesome school student having a good time inside the classroom during interval period, said he had never witnessed such a nasty protest. The irony was clearly lost on him.

The only all-party meeting held to thrash out differences ended with both sides getting further alienated. At this meeting, held on March 16, the Chief Minister is said to have told the UDF that not all their notices for adjournment motions would be granted.

Even the Speaker's assurance in the Assembly on March 20 did not placate the UDF. All senior leaders, including Opposition Leader V D Satheesan and Muslim League's P K Kunhalikutty, said the initiative for dialogue should come from the government.

Pinarayi Vijayan, however, seemed unwilling to humour the Opposition. The government side was especially angered by the Opposition Leader's "management quota" remark against PWD Minister Muhammad Riyas.

Earlier, inside the Assembly, ruling party members, particularly V Sivankutty, made the claim that an Opposition was occupying the well of the House for the first time in the Assembly's history.

The Opposition Leader later told the media that this has happened twice before; in 1975 when no less a person than E M Sankaran Namboodirippad was the Opposition Leader and later in 2011 when V D Achuthanandan occupied the post.

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