The Kerala Assembly witnessed unprecedented scenes on Wednesday, March 15, as MLAs affiliated to the ruling LDF joined hands with watch and ward staff to take on Opposition MLAs who had laid siege to the office of Speaker AN Shamseer, accusing him of denying them the right to move adjournment motions.
According to the Opposition, several MLAs, including two women, were injured in the melee.
The commotion began when MLAs of the ruling front attempted to escort the Speaker into his office with the help of watch and ward staff while the Opposition siege protest was in full swing.
Opposition MLAs accused the Speaker of being a puppet in the hands of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who, they alleged, had scant regard for democratic conventions and rules.
‘CM belittling Speaker’
They also accused Vijayan of belittling the Speaker’s position by preventing him from functioning independently and without pressure.
They even accused the chief minister of making the Speaker a laughing stock to promote his party colleague and PWD Minister PA Muhammad Riyas, who, incidentally, is Vijayan’s son-in-law.
Riyas’s statement in the Kerala Assembly, warning the Speaker against paying heed to the “extraordinary” demands of the Opposition, also contributed to the dramatic turn of events.
Riyas accused the Congress-led Opposition UDF of having a “backbone made using banana plants”.
Addressing persons outside the Assembly premises soon after the incident, Opposition leader VD Satheesan alleged that four Opposition MLAs, including two women, were manhandled by the watch and ward without provocation.
He said the Opposition had informed in advance that they would not resort to any violence and would attempt only to prevent the Speaker from entering his office in a democratic protest.
“Despite our assurances, they unleashed violence unilaterally, and women members KK Rema and Uma Thomas were injured. They twisted the hand of senior Congress MLA Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan. In the melee, Chalakkudy MLA TJ Suneesh Kumar Joseph became unconscious and collapsed,” said Satheesan.
He also accused two ruling front MLAs of manhandling the Opposition members along with the watch and ward.
The Speaker’s office is just outside the Assembly hall, and the whole development took place while the chief minister and other ministers addressed the session inside.
As soon as the day’s session began in the morning, Uma Thomas sought the Speaker’s permission to move an adjournment motion over the brutal assault sustained by a 16-year-old girl in broad daylight at Pothencode on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram at the hands of some anti-social elements.
Terming it a matter that did not deserve an adjournment motion, Shamseer told Uma to raise it as a submission.
When the Opposition pointed out that no adjournment motion was permitted in the recent past by the Speaker, ruling front members began arguing with them. It was then that the Opposition boycotted the House proceedings and organised the protest in front of the Speaker’s office.
“At least 40 women are facing violence on a daily basis. Where else can we raise such burning issues? If the government and the Speaker are not ready to listen, we have no option other than to resort to such protests,” said Satheesan.
Speaker moves to office
In the midst of the commotion, the Speaker managed to enter his office with the help of the LDF MLAs and the watch and ward staff. UDF
MLAs M Vincent, Saji Joseph and AKM Ashraf were seen forcibly removed by the watch and ward staff.
In the morning session, Congress MLA Roji M John was seen climbing the Speaker’s podium and shouting at him: “Show some spine. Don’t be Vijayan’s slave.”
After the UDF members walked out, Vijayan could read out his resolution on the Brahmapuram fire, in which he debunked all UDF allegations without a murmur of protest.
It was his first statement on the fire since it began some 15 days ago.