Room No. 5 in Parliament House on Tuesday became the venue of a tussle between the Trinamool Congress and Telugu Desam Party after the former flashing an official letter attempted to take over the room as its office and the latter chose to dig in its heels, citing “emotional and sentimental” reasons. The matter, which remained unresolved for the day, also generated an animated exchange of words between two MPs from opposing sides.
It all started around 2 pm when Trinamool MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Sultan Ahmed, Saugata Roy, Satabdi Roy and Dinesh Trivedi reached Room No. 5, which is on the ground floor, and staked claim to the room, citing an August 6 letter from the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
The letter said the room had been allotted to Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party “during the tenure of 16th Lok Sabha” and requested the party to “occupy the allotted accommodation/room at the earliest”.
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As Bandyopadhyay and Ahmed went inside to “take possession”, staff accompanying the TMC MPs removed the TDP nameplates from the entrance of the room and installed TMC’s.
Flashing the letter to mediapersons, the Trinamool MPs claimed they were only doing what they had been asked to do by the Lok Sabha Secretariat and the staff that removed the TDP nameplates and installed theirs belonged to Parliament and not the party. The TDP leaders, meanwhile, alleged that the personal secretary of a Trinamool MP removed the nameplates.
Once in, the Trinamool MPs ran into the TDP office staff stationed inside. Clearly stunned, the TDP staff made some hectic phone calls to inform the way the room was being taken over by the TMC. “We have been told that we have been been given room nos. 135 and 136 on the third floor. But we don’t want to shift from this room since we have been here for 30 years now,” a TDP staff member said.
The Trinamool MPs, meanwhile, went into an overdrive, justifying their “taking over”. “It is for the first time that we have got a room in the Parliament House. Even in the last Lok Sabha, our party functioned without a room in the House,” party MP Sultan Ahmed told The Indian Express.
Bandyopadhyay said, “The room being allotted to TDP on the third floor is 61 square metres while the one they are currently in is just 51 square metres. They should have no problems shifting to a bigger room.”
The TDP office staff, too, got into action and distributed copies of a letter its parliamentary party leader Y S Chowdary wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on August 11. Stating that Room No. 5 had been in its possession since 1984 when TDP “began its journey to Parliament” with 32 seats, Chowdary’s letter gave a detailed account of the party’s electoral performance in subsequent polls to state that “though we have seen ups and downs in our political career, yet, we held on to R. No. 5 PH”.
“In the recent elections (May 2014) to the AP Assembly, we rode back to power. Therefore, we are emotionally and sentimentally attached to R.No 5 PH,” Chowdary wrote. The letter expressed “deep gratitude” to the Speaker for allotting “much bigger” Room Nos. 135 and 136, but said that the party, “in view of the emotional attachment”, should be allowed to continue in Room No. 5.
Around 4 pm, the TDPs nameplates were re-installed outside the room by TDP office secretary N Satyanarayana in the presence of Chowdary. “This is nothing but uncultured behaviour by TMC members,” Chowdary said.
The argument was clearly far from over. “This is not fair. How can you do this? We are friends, first thing. Right. Yesterday we had discussed,” Chowdary told Bandyopadhyay. Bandyopadhyay shot back: “Absolutely, yes we had discussed. But well after that when you went and met and talked they said whatever we have given we are not going to employ. If you can make it to Speaker, we will again go back. We have got it.”
Chowdary later told the media, “They cannot do that. We have already written a letter. Last 30 years we have been here. Our founder president late N T Rama Rao had done the inauguration. We have lot of sentimental value for this office. They have now spoiled out sentiment very badly. This is extremely bad. If this is the attitude of the TMC, then the people of West Bengal will tell them the way.”
“This is nothing but rowdyism. We thought that they are very well educated and cultured people…. Day before yesterday they had given letter. Even if you are a tenant, you still have time. We have given the letter to the Speaker and waiting for the reply,” he added. “I don’t know how in Parliament this sort of undemocratic things can take place. This is the property of the Speaker. This is under her administrative control,” he said.
Interestingly, the issue is not limited to the TDP and the TMC.
Sources said the Lok Sabha Secretariat has asked the CPM to move out of its present office (Room Nos135 and 136 on the third floor) to 129, which is currently occupied by the RJD. The CPM is not keen and has already conveyed it to the Speaker. The CPI, whose strength has come down to three, has been asked to vacate its office on the third floor (Room No 127). The room has been allocated to Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP. CPI leader D Raja have objected to this. The JD(U), which has its office near the lobby, had been asked to move to a smaller office, but it refused after which its office has been divided, giving the larger share to the BJD.