When the Opposition Left Front boycotted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s speech in the Assembly last week, saying she “does not have any time” for what she refers to as “the temple of democracy”, they had raised a valid issue. Mamata’s “absence” from the Assembly and her “utter disregard” for the proceedings, the Left Front claims, is unmatched by any other chief minister in Bengal’s history.
The Indian Express set out to look beyond the Opposition parties’ claim that the chief minister “does not care for the Assembly” and came up with some interesting data.
Tomorrow, on February 21, when the state Assembly sits for the final day in its ongoing session, it would have sat for a total of 125 days since Mamata took to office in May 2011. And although it is extremely unlikely, because Mamata is “known for not attending Assembly on Fridays” — even if the CM does show up Friday — she would have attended the House for only 29 days (of 125).
These 29 days include Governor’s address, placing of budget and others – when the CM’s presence in the Assembly is deemed mandatory. But so are Fridays – called the chief minister’s day when Mamata is supposed to answer questions on departments held by her (nine) – and she has only answered a question and a half so far.
As for her attendance at the Assembly, Mamata has sat for: 8 out of 32 days in 2011; 11 out of 43 days in 2012; 7 out of 40 days in 2013; and 2 out of 9 days so far in this year.
But the Oppositions’ criticism does not only revolve around the less number of days Mamata has been to the House. On February 10, the day Governor M K Narayanan addressed the House, Mamata had arrived after the national anthem had been played.
“She does not care about the Assembly. She does not answer questions. If she keeps on showing such disregard, we will boycott her speeches,’’ said Leader of the Opposition Suryakanta Mishra.
On July 27 last year, budget proposals of 63 departments went to the guillotine, that is they were passed without any debate or discussion — itself an unprecedented act in the Parliamentary history of India.
Even during the Left Front regime, and during the previous Congress government, chief ministers would attend Assembly on a regular basis.
Former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee used to attend the House every Thursday (the CM’s day during his regime) and would answer questions pertaining to his departments.
Mamata-led Trinamool Congress, however, has an explanation for her absence. “She goes to districts to keep track of the developmental works across the state. It will prove to be a good thing for the state in the long run,’’ Shovondev Chattopadhyay, government chief whip, told The Indian Express.