The Kerala Assembly witnessed high drama on Wednesday. Governor Arif Mohammad Khan faced unprecedented protests inside Assembly; Opposition MLAs were forcibly removed by marshals; and the governor, perhaps for the first time, contradicted his own speech at the floor of the house.
The theatrics were predictably fuelled by the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the Kerala government's opposition to it. A resolution against the law was passed in the Kerala Assembly, and the state has also challenged the law in a court. Khan, meanwhile, has publically supported the law on more than one occasions.
The situation unfurled when MLAs of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) MLAs blocked Khan from reaching the podium in Assembly, from where he was due to give the traditional policy address, made at the commencement of the first session of each year. UDF MLAs raised "go back" slogans against him. This was ostensibly to oppose the governor's 'pro-government' stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act.
#WATCH Thiruvananthapuram: United Democratic Front (UDF) MLAs block Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan as he arrives in the assembly for the budget session. CM Pinarayi Vijayan also accompanying the Governor. pic.twitter.com/oXLRgyN8Et
— ANI (@ANI) January 29, 2020
The incident took place when Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan were ushering in Khan to the Assembly hall for presenting the policy address. Khan faced of sloganeering from UDF MLAs, who also held placards with messages such as "Call Back Governor" and "We the People (of) India Resist CAA", and blocked his way to the podium.
Khan, meanwhile, stood and waited patiently while the chief minister appeared to gesture to the Opposition leaders to make way.
Though the chief minister and the Speaker repeatedly tried to convince the agitating Opposition members, they didn't budge and continued to raise slogans against Khan for nearly 10 minutes, after which watch and ward personnel physically removed the dissenting members and cleared the governor's way to the dias.
Escorted by Assembly marshals, the Governor eventually got to the dias and the National Anthem was played. After it ended, opposition MLAs gathered in the well of the House and started sloganeering.
They then boycotted Khan's policy address, and proceeded for a sit-in protest at the gate.
Khan read the policy speech, traditionally prepared by the chief minister's office. However, in an unprecedented move, he also registered his objection to a paragraph included in the speech.
In his speech, the Governor read out paragraph 18 that contained criticism of the CAA but said that he was doing so at the behest of Vijayan despite his own views contradicting what he's reading out.
#WATCH Kerala Governor in state assembly: I'm going to read this para (against CAA) because CM wants me to read this, although I hold the view this doesn't come under policy or programme. CM has said this is the view of government, & to honor his wish I'm going to read this para. pic.twitter.com/ciCLwKac3t
— ANI (@ANI) January 29, 2020
Khan had earlier reportedly refused to read out the said paragraph. According to The Times of India, sources in the LDF government confirmed that Raj Bhavan wrote to the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) on Tuesday evening, clarifying that he would omit the said paragraph as it did not reflect his views.
Meanwhile, The Business line reported that the prepared text handed to him in advance would remain in the official Assembly archives, irrespective of what a governor may choose to read out or omit. Likewise, even his digression from the written text is also unlikely to get into the official records, the experts said.
Kerala was the first state to pass a resolution against the contentious law and even challenged the law in the Supreme Court. Both the moves have been criticised by Khan.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2020 11:45:51 IST