Opposition leaders hurled paper balls, paper planes and balloons as Governor Ram Naik gave his customary address to a joint sitting of the Assembly and Legislative Council Thursday, the opening day of the budget session. Some Samajwadi Party MLAs arrived in the House wearing garlands of potatoes to highlight the plight of potato farmers. The Governor read out his over an hour-long speech at a stretch despite the uproar. As soon as Naik began his address, SP members donning red caps, BSP members wearing blue caps and Congress leaders wearing white Gandhian caps stooped into the well of the House carrying placards and banners, shouting slogans and asking the Governor to “go back”.
Admonishing the Opposition, Naik said that while they were representatives of “civilised society”, their behaviour was that of the opposite. “Aap sabhya samaj ke pratinidhi hain, iske viprit vyavahar kar rahe hain,” he said as opposition members threw paper balls at the podium. Later, Speaker Hriday Narayan Dixit also condemned the act and thanked the governor for fulfiling his constitutional duty despite the “condemnable behaviour”. Both Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as well as former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is a member of the Legislative Council, were present during the address. While SP members led the protest, party chief Akhilesh watched while seated next to the Leader of Opposition Ram Govind Chaudhary.
As slogans rent the air, placards and banners read: “Nirdoshon ka farzi encounter band karo” (Stop fake encounters of innocents), “Musalmanon ka utpeeran band karo (stop exploitation of Muslims)”, “Kansganj ke sampradayik hinsa mein nirdosh logon pe julma band karo (stop harassment of innocents in Kansganj communal violence”. Some banners even quoted the controversial Facebook post of the Bareilly district magistrate about a “trend of carrying out processions through Muslim localities and raising anti-Pakistan slogans”.
The Governor, however, continued to highlight the “achievements” of the state government. “My government has established the rule of law by generating a crime-free, fear-free and injustice-free environment in the state….Effective action is being taken as per law against criminal and mafia elements,” he said. He also said that the government was making efforts towards “promotion of communal harmony and national integration and social harmony among different religions, communities and other sections of the society”.
Naik listed the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Bill, formation of anti-romeo squads, anti-obscene call cell, anti-land mafia task force as well as the government’s decision to establish a women battalion in the current financial year among the “achievements” of the government. Speaking about the upcoming “UP Investors Summit” on February 21 and 22, he expressed “pride” over the fact that a resident of Paronkh village of Kanpur Dehat, President Ram Nath Kovind, has been elected to the supreme constitutional post of the country, while the Opposition continued to chant slogans.
In his address, the Governor also said that the state government would soon set up the ‘Chief Minister Agriculture Irrigation Fund’ with Rs 20,000 crore to “ensure reach of irrigation water to each and every field” and that a separate amount under the fund is being proposed for the drought-hit Bundelkhand region.
With the government scheduled to present the annual budget for the next fiscal on February 16, Naik said that the present regime is bringing in a “new health policy based on medical and health-related requirements of the state, so that people sitting on the last rung of the ladder can get quality medical facilities”. He also mentioned the decision to construct the 340.24 km-long Poorvanchal Expressway from Lucknow to Ghazipur, adding that the project would start in the financial year 2018-19.
While Congress Legislative Party leader Ajai Kumar “Lallu” called the Governor’s address “Jhooth ka pulinda”, BSP Legislative Party leader Lalji Verma quoted the phrase, “Khoda pahaad nikli chuhiya”.