MUMBAI: The decision to suspend 19 opposition MLAs for nine months was made to save the BJP government in Maharashtra, the Congress alleged on Wednesday even as Shiv Sena MLAs in a U-turn said that the suspension for "nine months is too harsh".
"Government fears that the Shiv Sena would go against it. Hence they have found an easy way out to suspend opposition members," senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
"Immediate threat was to the budget. Shiv Sena would have toed opposition line and opposed the government over issue of crop loan waiver. Hence, by suspending the members they reduced the strength of the house to a level of their comfort," he said.
Shiv Sena MLA Ravindra Auti said that his party condemns the deplorable acts of opposition members, but the punishment for that is too harsh.
However, when asked why his party members did not oppose the motion on the floor of the house, the Sena member did not have any explanation.
One of the Shiv Sena MLAs on condition of anonymity said that the directionless party leadership in the house was exposed today and the decision to press for cutting the suspension short was made only after intervention of top party bosses.
Parliamemtary affairs minister Girish Mahajan defended the decision by saying that it was necesscitated due to shameful actions of opposition members.
"People say that the decision is unprecedented. But, let me remind them that the act to burn the copies of the budget too was equally unprecedented. The budget has a sanctity, which was destroyed by the opppsition," he argued.
Earlier in the day, as the house reassembled in the morning, Bapat moved the motion to suspend 19 of the opposition MLAs. Speaker of the Maharashtra legislative assembly Haribhau Bagde then called for a voice vote and announced suspension of the 19 legislators belonging to Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) once the motion was accepted and appruved.
They are being suspended for “insulting the sovereign legislature by displaying banners on the floor of the House, burning copies of budget on legislature premises, creating ruckus, and disrespecting the Speaker’s authority” during the presentation of the state budget on 18 March, he said.
Among the 19 legislators suspended till December 31, 10 belong to the Congress while nine are from the NCP.
“The suspension has been recommended well within the constitutional norms and to maintain the dignity of the House. They can’t call suspension unprecedented because they had taken similar action three years back,” finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
On March 18, the opposition members were demanding farm debt waiver immediately and tried stalling the budget presentation by creating ruckus. Despite several requests by the Speaker to stop the din and remove banners from inside the House, the opposition members continued to raise slogans through the budget speech.
Soon after the motion was accepted, leader of the opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil condemned suspension and led a walkout. Vikhe-Patil said the government was not sensitive to the farmers’ plight and it wanted to supress the opposition’s voice by resorting to undemocratic means like suspension.
Legislative council too was adjourned over the issues after opposition halted the efforts from treasury benches to suspend members from the upper house who created ruckus on March 18.
Opposition leaders from both the houses then also called on governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and urgd his intervention to end the logjam.