The opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) on Thursday moved a resolution, against Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan in the Kerala Assembly seeking his resignation, and staged a walkout during the discussion, after which it was rejected by the House. The UDF on Thursday moved a resolution in the House against the Speaker in the wake of allegations against him in the dollar smuggling case and over the alleged extravagance in the various construction activities carried out in the Assembly complex.
At the fag end of the nearly four-hour-long discussion, while Sreeramakrishnan was explaining his stand, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala rose from his seat and announced that since the Speaker was not budging to the demand, the opposition had decided to walkout. Indian Union Muslim League MLAM Ummer presented the resolution and citing the news reports, said "it seems like after the end of the current session of the Assembly, the customs may question the Speaker".
"When the Speaker of the Assembly needs to present himself before the Customs for questioning, it will affect the dignity of this House. It's unfortunate to present this resolution," Ummer said. Chennithala said the Speaker should step down from the post.
"He will be known as the most tainted Speaker in the history of Kerala Assembly," Chennithala said and pointed out thatthe currentSpeaker had during the last government'sterm climbed the daisin protest. However, the treasury bench strongly defended the Speaker and said the resolution itself was "based on hearsay" and some media reports which do not have any backing.
Sreeramakrishnan, in his reply said he was "not worried over the imaginatory stories written by some media houses". "I am happy and proud that during a time when the voice of dissent is being muzzled across the country, we are discussing such a matter," the Speaker said.
"The Opposition was now targeting me because there is nothing to protest against the government," he said. The House also witnessed a war of words when the Opposition members asked why the Speaker attended the inauguration of a shop of one of the accused in the gold smuggling case.
"What's the evidence against the Speaker? That he went to inaugurate some shop? Let me ask you one question. The Leader of Opposition invited Swapna Suresh, the accused, to an Iftar dinner hosted by him. I would like to ask why he (Chennithala) invited her?" S Sharma CPI(M) legislator asked. Chennithala replied that he invited only the consulate general and not Swapna Suresh to the event.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan strongly backed the Speaker and said with this resolution, the "political pauperismof the opposition parties" was exposed, adding that there was a conspiracy behind targeting Sreeramakrishnan. "The statement of the accused under section 164 to the court is not in public domain. But the opposition is targeting the Speaker based on the said statement given by the accused recently after months of custody," Vijayan said.
The Chief Minister said it was unfortunate that the opposition has brought such a resolution instead ofopposing the "antics of the probe agencies". The Speaker, in his reply, also defended the expenses incurred in the various refurbishing activities in the Assembly complex and said the contract was given toUralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society (ULCCS) because of their track record.
"The Opposition members are asking why ULCCS was always being considered. I would like to point out that most of the opposition members including the Leader of Opposition have given letters seeking their service for the development activities in their respective constituencies," he said and read out names of the opposition members and the projects undertaken by ULCCS in their constituencies. The Speaker said the oldest cooperative society in the country has a track record of quality work and handing over the excess funds allotted for any project.
The lone BJP member in the House, O Rajagopal supported the resolution, by the UDF against Sreeramakrishnan, and said the Speaker should be a model to the rest of the members. Ruling party members including James Mathew, Veena George, Kovoor Kunjumon, Mullakkara Ratnakaran and M Swaraj among others strongly opposed the resolution and took part in the discussion.
Though the ruling front initially objected to the resolution citing technical reasons, the House later decided to discuss the matter. Minutes before the beginning of the presentation of the resolution, Sreeramakrishnan left the Speaker's dais and deputy speaker P Sasi began to preside over the House proceedings.
Meanwhile, Youth Congress activists burnt the effigy of the Speaker during a protest outside the Assembly complex.