Monday, Jul 21, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
For some years now, it had become routine for the Opposition to demonstrate in the well of the House and boycott proceedings.
During this session, there were few demonstrations though walkouts were usual. After the walkouts, the members returned immediately to join the discussions. The House also found time for a special discussion on the spread of viral fevers in the State. The Speaker, Vakkom B. Purushothaman, had promised the Opposition before the beginning of the session itself that they would be given time to discuss any serious issue they wished to debate.
The last week of the debates showed allegations being raised liberally against Ministers. Though some of the allegations had a ring of truth in it, they were raised in a very casual manner. Allegations against Ministers are allowed in the House only after giving written notice to the Speaker. In one of the notices given this time, there was a glaring error. The notice spoke of defalcation of Rs. 3 crores while the total sum involved in the payout was mentioned as just Rs. 6.7 lakhs.
Besides, the Opposition members raising the charges were found to be not very keen on pressing the charges. Quite a few reasons are behind this. One is the move for electoral alliance between the CPI(M) and the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Another is the fact the ruling Front always has a counter punch to deliver if the Opposition raised allegations against it. The two fronts, which ruled the State for the past two decades one after another, have enough allegations in their arsenal to be used against each other.
In fact, the response of any criticism from the Opposition from the ruling front is that the previous Government too had done similar things. Consequently, public interest fails to be the focus of debates. Many members come to the House without properly studying their subject and debate often lowers to the level of a mudslinging match.
This allows the Ministers to get away from answering genuine criticism and allegations. Ministers could even point out, without challenge, that the Opposition was saying that they had taken large sums as bribes when the alleged deal was smaller in size.
Protracted and regressive character of discussions had disappeared to a great extent with the Speaker insisting on time limits for speeches. The Speaker, in his press conference before the beginning of the session, urged the media to highlight studied speeches in the House. The complaint was that the media was focussing on the trivial.
The restrictions on the coverage of the proceedings by televisions channels led to shifting the attention to press conferences and interviews held by leaders and members outside the Assembly hall on issues they raised inside the House. These `events' caught the limelight in the electronic media.
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