In an unprecedented move, Mukul Roy has been named the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Bengal assembly by the speaker Biman Banerjee. When such a senior leader of the ruling party had submitted his nomination for the post, it was expected that he would become the chairman of the PAC. But it has raised questions of propriety, as Roy has been elected to the assembly recently as a BJP MLA. Within weeks, he joined the TMC.
The BJP has appealed to the speaker for his disqualification. After Roy was named as the chairman of PAC Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition, said that if the speaker does not take steps to disqualify the member, they will move to the Calcutta High Court.
He reiterated that the post of the chairman should be given to the opposition. “As the government has the right to spend, the opposition has the right to examine the expenditure,” he said. By appointing Roy, he claimed, the ruling party has violated this convention as no BJP MLA has proposed the name of Roy.
No doubt, with his long experience in parliamentary politics, Roy is a fit person to head the PAC. But Roy won his assembly seat as a BJP candidate and has joined TMC a few weeks after the election. A principled political position demands he should resign from the assembly, get re-elected as a TMC candidate, and then accept anything he deserves. But he has not resigned. The TMC claims that whether the member should be disqualified depends on the speaker, and there is no time limit for the speaker to decide on the matter. Unless the speaker gives his verdict, the courts cannot enter into the matter, they have pointed out.
The anti-defection law, contemplated to clean up the rot of ayaram gyaram politics of the 1960s and 70s, has disciplined the Indian polity to a large extent. The BJP has come to power in Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh by causing large scale desertion from the ruling party, its bête noire Congress. But in such cases, the MLAs resigned from the assembly, the government became a minority, and the BJP formed the government. Later, in the by-polls, BJP won the required number of seats to retain its majority.
But in Bengal, the law has become non-existent. After Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011, she started weaning away MLAs from the Left and the Congress, and they all stayed MLAs throughout the term. The BJP snatched away some MLAs from the TMC in the last assembly, and none of them cared to resign. The trend has become so hazardous that now a slender majority of a ruling party has become dangerous. That was why during her campaign Didi asked people to give her 200 seats so that no one could split her party and bring down her government. People have given her more than 200 seats.
But even after winning big, the TMC is carrying on the old game. Now it will be worth observing whether the court comes up to limit the time of ‘consideration’ by the speaker to dispose of appeals of disqualification.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)