“I have nothing against him. All that I said was that when the Speaker enjoys enormous power under the Constitution, why he is not exercising it to restore normality in the Assembly,” said Rout, one of the senior most ministers in the Naveen Patnaik cabinet.
His tone belied the belligerence in which he had questioned Pujari’s efficiency as the custodian of the Assembly in view of the ongoing stalemate over the money deposit collection scam.
In an obvious attempt at smoothing ruffled feathers, the minister said he did not intend to denigrate or hurt the Speaker in any way.
“He is much younger than me. He is a lawyer. I did not mean to offend him,” said Rout, trying to put his statement in perspective.
The minister, who seems to have a penchant for courting controversies, felt that the people, instead of deriving their own meanings, should have seen his words in the larger context of Opposition parties throwing the House into chaos with their members climbing onto the Speaker’s podium and stalling the proceedings of the House.
“Such behaviour is against all conventions,” said Rout, who had created a controversy yesterday by criticising the Speaker’s handling of the House.
He had said that the Speaker did not appear to be willing to exercise his powers to put the Assembly in order. His statement had evoked sharp reactions across the political spectrum.
The Speaker, instead of joining issue with the minister, had sought to heap coals of fire on his head, saying that Rout was much senior to him and he (the Speaker) had to learn a lot from him.
Sources said Rout’s flip-flop on the issue followed pressure from BJD’s top leadership, which has been embarrassed by the minister’s frequent outbursts. Having apparently been snubbed by his party brass, the minister today turned on the Opposition, accusing it of trying to extract political mileage out of the issue.
“Since they have nothing worthwhile to say, they are indulging in politics over the issue,” said Rout.
Leader of the Opposition Narasingh Mishra, however, refused to be cowed down.
“Yes, we are here to do politics. We have used his statement as a weapon. But, the media recorded whatever Dama babu (Damador Rout) had said yesterday. He must listen to the recording,” said Mishra.
Rout also drew flak from some of his own party leaders. “There is a code of conduct for the Opposition and the ruling party. As a minister, he should not have made this kind of a statement questioning the efficiency of the Speaker, who has been running the House smoothly,” said Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasis Samantray. Party spokesperson Pratap Jena also came out in support of the Speaker.
On the other hand, BJP leaders said Rout’s statement on the way the House was being conducted reflected the truth. “We do not know under what circumstances he made the statement but what he said is true. We welcome his statement,” said BJP legislature party leader Basant Panda.
Assembly proceedings, however, continued to be stalled even on the 11th day of the session with the House unable to transact any significant business. The ruling party members appeared hell bent on not allowing the Opposition to take up a discussion on the money deposit collection scam.
Later in the day, a six-member Congress delegation, led by party’s chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati, went to the Raj Bhavan to lodge a complaint with governor S.C. Jamir against the Assembly being run in alleged violation of the constitutional provisions.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta
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